Charleston Gazette

December 29, 2004
Massey reopens former Cannelton mine

By Paul Wilson
Staff writer

Massey Energy began production Tuesday at the former Cannelton Industries mine in Kanawha County, according to the company.

"No coal has actually been shipped," said Katharine Kenny, a Massey spokeswoman. "We expect to increase in production in 2005, but we're starting out slow, just like we said we would."

Only one shift of miners is working each day at the new Mammoth Coal Company, though the company expects to increase that, Kenny said. She said she was unsure of an exact figure, but guessed that fewer than 50 employees were at work Tuesday. That number should also increase in the coming months.

The Mammoth miners are nonunion and replace about 200 members of the United Mine Workers who worked the mine when bankrupt Horizon Natural Resources owned it.

Massey purchased the mine from Horizon earlier this year after a federal bankruptcy judge ruled Horizon could scrap collective bargaining agreements and health benefits for active and retired miners. Otherwise, the judge ruled, Horizon's assets could not have been sold.

The ruling drew sharp criticism from U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, among others, who said the move contradicts federal law requiring successor companies to take on the legacy costs of predecessors.

When Massey bought the mine, UMW President Cecil Roberts said he could not imagine a more terrible scenario. For years, the Richmond, Va.-based company has fought organization efforts and bought union mines and replaced UMW members with nonunion workers.

For months, UMW members have demonstrated outside the mine near the Kanawha-Fayette county line. UMW officials could not be reached for comment late Tuesday, but Roberts had pledged that the UMW would engage in sit-down strikes or other actions if Massey reopened the mine with nonunion workers.

The mine is expected to produce about 800,000 tons of coal next year, according to Massey President Donald L. Blankenship. Massey is the country's fourth-largest coal company and the largest in West Virginia.

To contact staff writer Paul Wilson, use e-mail or call 348-5179.

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