MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia Coal Association (WVCA) joined together with the West Virginia Coal Mining Institute to sponsor a special summer program for mining professionals on June 22-23, at the Marriott at Waterfront Place.
“For the last two days we’ve had a joint conference with the West Virginia Coal Mining Institute to talk about some of the challenges that are facing the coal industry in this country, specifically here in West Virginia and Appalachia,” WVCA Vice President Jason Bostic said. “And we headed a very forthright and technical discussion about some of the solutions to those challenges. We’re looking to preserve the jobs and the economic activity that coal provides to the state.”
Bostic said one of the major issues facing the coal mining industry is how it will recover and fare as the pandemic eases.
In 2020, he said, COVID-19 caused disruptions to the international market, which is very important to West Virginia coal. That’s because much of what is mined in the state is exported to other countries where it is used to make electricity and steel.
Domestically, lies another major concern for the coal mining industry, Bostic said.
“We have more domestic regulatory policy challenges as there is a movement afoot to decarbonize the United States at a very quick rate, while at the same time they’re looking to electrify major parts of the economy,” he said. “And we’re left to wonder how you can do that without coal as part of the energy mix. And that would, also, extend to massive spending on infrastructure.”
West Virginia is the leading supplier of metallurgical coal, which is used to make steel, Bostic said. It produces 90 percent of the coal necessary for steel in the country, so he asked how any future infrastructure is possible without the coal industry, specifically West Virginia coal.
The 2-day event was well attended and Bostic said WCVA had its highest turnout ever. There were many speakers, some of whom were elected officials.
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito(R-WV) spoke in person on the first day, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin(D-WV) on the second and Congressman David McKinley(R-1st District) spoke, virtually.
Having these officials speak and voice their support for the coal industry, Bostic said, was a “very enormous contribution”.
“The Congressional delegation and all three of those folks and, well, the entire delegation for that matter, are very passionate about defending West Virginia and the coal miners; and the hard work that men and women do in this industry that supports not only their own families, but the entire state.”
WVCA’s vice president said it was not only beneficial to have the representatives there, but to have so many people in the industry who were willing to share ideas, or simply listen to what others have to say.
The pandemic, he said, has greatly affected the coal industry in many ways and one of those was taking away the ability for industry leaders and insiders to even meet in person.
“It’s great to see the folks that we work with in person, for a change, and to have the event here in Morgantown next that all the assets that the university has that could be dedicated to energy research and to coal research,” Bostic said. “It was a good couple of days and we’re glad we came up.”
Bostic said he was “very appreciative” for everyone who took part and he looks forward to having more of these types of events in the future, now that the pandemic is subsiding.
“We think it’s a testimony to the creativity and the ingenuity of this industry, particularly here in West Virginia. And we’ve had a lot of great minds here over the last couple of days and a lot of those folks in attendance. And if we continue to draw on those remarkable human resources, West Virginia coal is going to be here for a long time.”