CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Coal giant Arch Coal announced Monday it is buying Scott Depot-based International Coal Group, reversing its move out of the Appalachian coalfields in another major industry consolidation.The $3.4 billion deal also gives St. Louis-based Arch Coal a larger stake in the Illinois coal industry to go with its position as a leading producer of surface-mined coal from Wyoming's Powder River Basin."The acquisition of ICG is a significant strategic step that strengthens Arch's position as a world-class, global coal franchise positioned for growth," said Arch Coal CEO Steven F. Leer.Leer touted the addition of geographic diversity in Arch Coal's portfolio and emphasized the acquisition would increase his company's participation in global markets for coal used to make steel.Under the deal, Arch Coal would purchase all outstanding shares of ICG for $14.60 per share. The deal is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to close sometime during the second quarter of 2011.A potential Arch-ICG buyout has been rumored in the trade press, but hasn't gotten nearly as much attention as Alpha Natural Resources' purchase of Massey Energy, which is scheduled for a shareholder vote June 1.If its purchase of ICG goes through, Arch would become the second largest producer of metallurgical coal in the U.S., behind only the combined Alpha-Massey company.
In 2006 and again in 2007, Arch Coal sold off major portions of its West Virginia holdings, including its Hobet Mining and Catenary Coal operations, greatly reducing its involvement in the Appalachian coal industry.Arch retained its Mountain Laurel complex, a longwall mine in Logan County, and its Coal-Mac subsidiary, and also continues to fight the veto of a Clean Water Act permit for its proposed Spruce No. 1 mountaintop removal operation.Company officials on Monday emphasized that the ICG buy includes that company's Tygart and Beckley operations, both of which are underground mines. ICG also operates a surface mining complex in Webster County and underground and surface mines in Garrett County, Md., as well as underground and surface mines in eastern Kentucky. Arch Coal noted that the ICG mines are "union-free" operations."ICG has assembled a high-quality portfolio of low-cost mining operations and reserves, and one of the industry's most talented and productive workforces," said ICG CEO Ben Hatfield. "By teaming up with Arch, we expect to realize tremendous value for the shareholders of both companies while ensuring that our operations achieve their full potential."In 2009, Arch Coal and ICG ranked as the 5th and 6th largest coal producers in West Virginia, behind CONSOL Energy, Massey Energy, Patriot Coal Co. and Alpha Natural Resources, according to data compiled by the West Virginia Coal Association.Just as Massey is going into its buyout by Alpha with questions remaining about the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, ICG is still defending itself against wrongful death cases filed by families of some of the miners who died in the Jan. 2, 2006, explosion at the company's now-closed Sago Mine in Upshur County.Reach Ken Ward Jr. at email@example.com or 304-348-1702.