By now, Arch Coal Inc. hoped an expansion of its Dal-Tex mountaintop removal mine in Logan County would be churning out coal.In March, a federal judge blocked permits for the expansion. Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Haden II wants to decide if the permits are legal before mining starts. Nearly 400 United Mine Workers face potential layoffs.Today, Arch Coal makes up for the Dal-Tex production loss with increased coal mining at its two major nonunion mines in Southern West Virginia.Arch Coal has increased production at its Mingo-Logan and Samples operations to offset the idling of Dal-Tex, according to corporate financial reports filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.Laid-off UMW members have been offered some of the jobs created, but Arch Coal officials declined to provide specifics about the situation.St. Louis-based Arch Coal provide general information about the moves in a quarterly report to stockholders, filed with the SEC on May 14."Management expects the decrease in production to be offset by increased production at the company's other eastern mines, Mingo Logan's new surface mine in the Phoenix reserve and the Samples Mine, which has added a new truck-shovel spread," the report said. "Management also plans to increase production at the company's Black Thunder Mine in the Powder River Basin, where several pieces of mining equipment from Dal-Tex have been relocated."During the first three months of 1999, Arch Coal spent $6.8 million for the new truck-shovel spread at the Samples Mine on Cabin Creek in eastern Kanawha County.Arch Coal also spent $1.8 million on equipment upgrades at Mingo-Logan during the quarter, the report said.Arch Coal is West Virginia's largest coal producer. The company's mines in the state produced 26.9 million tons of coal in 1997, according to the West Virginia Coal Association.The Mingo-Logan complex, a nonunion operation near Wharncliffe, is Arch Coal's largest West Virginia operation. It produced 5.7 million tons of coal in 1997.David Todd, a spokesman for Arch Coal, said Mingo-Logan started a new surface mine last year in what the company calls its Phoenix reserves.The mine produces about 1.5 million tons of coal a year, which was expected to be new production - and thus new revenues and profits - for Arch Coal.Now, the production is used to offset the loss of production from the idling of Dal-Tex. Technically, the coal produced isn't filling Dal-Tex orders, but it is being used to offset financial losses from the idling.The new mine created about 100 new jobs, Todd said.Todd said the new truck-shovel spread at nonunion Samples increased production there by about 1 million tons. That coal was also supposed to be new production, but is now offsetting the Dal-Tex idling, Todd said.About 30 new jobs were created at Samples, Todd said.Arch Coal hired 22 laid-off UMW members from Dal-Tex and its Wylo Mine in Logan County for job openings at Samples, Todd said.Also, a loader spread from Dal-Tex was moved to the Hobet 21 operation in Boone County, Todd said. About 18 new jobs were created there, he said. Hobet 21 is a union mine.Todd declined to discuss specifics of how many laid-off UMW members from Dal-Tex or other Arch Coal operations were offered the new jobs created at Hobet 21 or Mingo-Logan.Under the UMW contract, laid-off union miners are supposed to be offered three out of every five new jobs at all Arch Coal mines - including nonunion ones."This is a matter between the UMWA and the company," Todd said. "That involves personnel issues, and we probably will not get into that."Dave Evans, a UMW District 17 board member in Logan, said he doesn't have a problem with how Arch Coal has filled its new job openings. The company has offered laid-off union miners most of the jobs, Evans said."To my knowledge, Arch has lived up to its obligations," Evans said.
To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., call 348-1702.