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Alpha CEO: Coal Has Very Bright Future


September 15, 2022 - David Stetson, CEO of Alpha Metallurgical Resources and Chair of the company’s Board of Directors, said his crystal ball may be broken, but he sees the future of the coal industry as being “very bright.”

Stetson was keynote speaker for the Bluefield Coal & Mining Show Media Appreciation and Exhibitors Breakfast Wednesday morning, held just prior to the official opening of the 24th show at the Brushfork Armory.

Alpha produces 25 percent of the nation’s metallurgical coal, which is used in the steel-making process, and Stetson said the cost of met coal during the last year has skyrocketed because of an increased worldwide demand.

CEO of Alpha Metallurgical Resources David Stetson speaks as this year’s keynote speaker for the Media and Exhibitor Appreciation Breakfast.


This surge in prices followed years of ebbs and flows, he said, but with inflation, the war in Ukraine and other factors creating a demand above supply, and after years of underinvestment, the price of a metric ton of met coal jumped from $112 in March 2021 to $670 in March 2022, a more than 500 percent increase.

Pricing has stabilized a bit, he said, and is projected to be just under $300 a ton by March 2023.

However, the company has seen record profits, allowing for investments in increased wages for employees, expansion of benefits and the elimination of the company’s long-term debt.

“We have had back-to-back-to-back record earnings,” he said.

Thermal coal (used for electricity generation) has seen unprecedented increases as well, he added, as coal-fired plants are coming back on line in some European countries to help offset the supply turmoil.

“This has been a tremendous time for the industry as a whole,” he said, and Alpha has expanded its market, even been shipping met coal to China, about 2 million tons in the last year.

This scenario may change, he said, but regulatory hurdles across the globe and more expensive access to capital has meant the opening of new mines is at a “much slower pace” than in years past when demand shoots up.

Stetson said there is always a “level of uncertainty” about the market as many factors play a role, including recession fears and a possible “cooling off” in steel production.

“We remain cautiously optimistic in 2023 and beyond,” he said, with no record highs, “but still solid prices above historic averages.”

But coal will be needed for decades to come.

“We produce the resource that is critically important to everyday life,” he said. “We are proud of that resource. Coal must continue to be a part of the baseload mix (of the energy grid).”

It is an affordable, and still plentiful, resource, he added.

“I believe we (the coal industry) will serve a critical role for many decades to come,” Stetson said. “We believe the future is very bright.”


Bill Reid, managing editor of and Coal Miner Exchange, was emcee of the event and also spoke.

“We are absolutely delighted to see you all here,” he said, referring to the three years since the last coal show. Originally scheduled for 2021, the pandemic forced the postponement until this year.

Reid also emphasized the current worldwide demand for coal, both met and thermal.

“Europe is turning its back to coal,” he said of the energy crisis in Europe created primarily by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions, and the world is turning to the United States to make up the lost tonnage (from Russia).

Although the coal industry continues to face political headwinds in favor of renewables, Reid said some positive things have happened, including the U.S. Supreme Court reining in the powers of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

The EPA now needs congressional approval for environmental policy changes that may be detrimental to a state’s economy.

Reid said coal mining output in the U.S. rose 7.9 percent in 2021 and is up 4 percent this year with production expected to be about 600 million tons.

The “great American coal industry” generates $261 billion in economic activity and creates 381,000 jobs, he added.

Reid said he word “coal” may not be “politically correct in some circles.”

“But be proud of the word coal,” he said. “Be proud of our coal miners who fueled the industrial age, two world wars and the information age. We are betting on the future of the coal industry.”

Robert W. “Bob” Ramsey, coal show General Chair and owner of Peters Equipment and Ramsey Industrials, said the coal show has been a Bluefield tradition for nearly 50 years and he thanked all of the volunteers who are “still here today” and who are the ones who make it all happen.

“The volunteers are unscripted,” he said. “When they get out here they know exactly what to do.”

Ramsey, Stetson and Reid were joined at the breakfast head table by Dafne Peters, whose late husband Charlie Peters started the coal show in 1976, Frazier Miller, who always creates the official coal show directory/program, Jeff Disibbio, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Two Virginias, the show sponsor, and Roger Topping, chamber government division vice chair.

Right after the breakfast, a ribbon-cutting was held in front of the armory to officially open the show.