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Combined production at Murray, Foresight coal mines up slightly


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Combined production at Murray, Foresight coal mines up slightly

Combined production at Murray Energy Corp. and Foresight Energy LP mines are up slightly in the past quarter.

According to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis of U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data, Murray and Foresight produced around 16.9 million tons of coal from about 13 of their coal mines in the fourth quarter of 2016. The total is up about 2.9% over production from the same mines a quarter ago and up 2.8% from the total in the same quarter a year-ago.

Murray Energy has held a substantial financial interest in Foresight since April 2015. Production from Foresight mines has been heavily affected by the shutdown of the Deer Run mine, which was forced to close after a combustion event at the mine. The fourth quarter of 2016 marked a full year of that mine, one of Foresight's four highly productive longwall operations, reporting no coal production. The mine is currently listed as nonproducing.

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Murray Energy's Ohio County and Powhatan No. 6 mines are the only operations where production was down significantly in both the prior quarter and year-ago period for the fourth quarter. Foresight and other Murray Energy operations have both appeared to have benefited from recent improvement in coal prices as production has slowly lifted through 2016.

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Murray Energy and Foresight Energy operations are primarily longwall mines in Northern Appalachia and the Illinois Basin. Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray recently told S&P Global Market Intelligence that while the new administration of President Donald Trump could pass some regulations to aid the industry, it is unlikely the jobs lost in the period of the previous administration will be recovered.

"None of it can be reversed. None of it," Murray said. "This is permanent destruction by Obama and his Democrat supporters."

Murray estimated at the time that coal production could be relatively stable at between 650 million tons and 700 million tons of production per year. Preliminary data from MSHA suggests coal production was at least 711.2 million tons in 2016 with several mines yet to report production.

Murray has said in previous interviews he expects Murray Energy to meet the demand for about one-sixth of the U.S. coal market as demand settles at lower historic levels.

"My planning horizon has been to see thermal coal markets go as low as 600 million tons a year and maybe as low as 550 and still compete within that market," Murray said in a September 2016 interview with S&P Global Market Intelligence. " … With little capital investment, I could mine 100 million tons a year. That's how cut back we are. To exist as a 100 million ton company in a 600 million ton market — being one-sixth — it's reasonable. It's doable."