Alpha Natural Resources
Alpha Natural Resources is America's second biggest coal miner by market capitalization, the leading producer of metallurgical coal in the US, and holds the largest reserves of coal (5.1 billion tons). Alpha has more than 60 active mines and 14 coal preparation plants located throughout Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming. After a 2009 merger with Foundation Coal and the 2011 purchase of Massey Energy, Alpha now owns the majority of the Mountain Top Removal Projects in the United States.
Alpha Natural Resources bought Massey for $7.1 billion. The combination creates the second largest coal operator in the United States and a global leader in metallurgical coal supply. Alpha and Massey together have a total reserve base of approximately 5 billion tons of the world’s largest, most expensive metallurgical coal reserve bases.
Before the purchase of Massey Energy, nearly half of Alpha’s production came from two huge surface mines in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming. The mines, called the Belle Ayre and Eagle Butte, produced more than 50 million tons with about 600 workers in 2010, according to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data.
In 2012 Alpha Natural Resources ranked as the nation’s third largest coal producer. This U.S. Department of Energy chart shows that rank, listing Alpha — with nearly 116 million tons produced — ahead of CONSOL Energy, Patriot Coal, and Cloud Peak Energy (the top two producers are Peabody Energy and Arch Coal).
In March 2011, Alpha Natural Resources said it plans to open offices in Sydney, Australia, and New Delhi, India, in response to the increase in demand for metallurgical and thermal coal.
Accidents, Safety Failures and Disasters
A 2007 roof fall at Alpha’s Brooks Run Mining subsidiary’s Cucumber Mine in McDowell County killed two miners — 48-year-old James David Thomas and 33-year-old Pete Poindexter. The incident occurred when a piece of mine roof that measured 8 feet by 9 feet by 18 inches thick fell on them. The section foreman, Richard Baugh, narrowly escaped being killed. In their final report on that incident, MSHA investigators concluded:“The accident occurred because effective safe work procedures and practices specified in the approved roof control plan were not enforced by mine management. In addition, miners were not properly trained in safe work procedures for retreat mining.”
In 2009, 7 workers at Apha subsidiary Cobra Resources’ Mountaineer Alma A Mine in Mingo County, W.Va., were trapped underground for nearly 24 hours by a serious mine flood. In its final report on that incident, MSHA concluded: “The mine operator did not regularly monitor and properly maintain the mine’s system of diversion ditches, designed to route storm runoff surface water away from the mine portals and into ponds constructed to handle runoff” and “The mine operator failed to monitor the portals of the underground mine where storm runoff surface water entered the portals, accumulated in a low area in the mine and blocked the primary and alternate escapeways.”
Alpha subsidiary Brooks Run Mining paid $115,000 to settle a sex-based discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in June of 2009.
Several property owners in Morgantown, West Virginia sued Alpha Natural Resources in 2010 over an unsafe sub surface mine that damaged their property. The coal mine had a history of roof falls before it closed in 2009 and has caused subsidence damage including ruined groundwater and explosive methane gas that now leaks into homes and outbuildings.
Alpha Sues Activists against Mountain Top Removal coal mining
Alpha Natural Resources has continued a lawsuit against the 34 anti-mountaintop removal activists begun by Massey.