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With New Contract, Coal Company Expands Production

Southern Coal is recalling several hundred laid off workers and plans to hire 650 more, thanks to a new contract from American Electric Power.From the Williamson (WV) Daily News: Roanoke-based Southern Coal announced Tuesday that it had entered into a multiyear contract to supply coal to American Electric Power. The contract will allow it to restart mines idled earlier this year and to save 500 jobs. Southern Coal is owned by the Justice Family, which includes Jim Justice, who also owns The Greenbrier resort. “We are so happy to be able to save the jobs, and hire the 650 new miners, especially at this time of the year,” Jim Justice and his son, Jay Justice, said in the company’s news release. “We hope this will make the holidays a little better for those effected (sic).”This is apparently the news that Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne Rutherford hinted atearlier this month. American Electric Power operates in eleven states: Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. AEP CEO Nick Akins said publicly in April that the company is decreasing the amount of coal it burns. He told a Chamber of Commerce meetingthat 65 percent of AEP's fleet uses coal today, but he expects that number to drop to 50 percent by 2020.The details of the contract weren't made public--only that it's "multiyear"--so it's hard to judge what long-term effect it could have on the Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia coalfields. Though AEP's plans a decade down the line still include a significant amount of coal, the company could always decide to buy cheaper Powder River or Illinois Basin coal in the future.