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June kicks off with flurry of coal mine opening announcements, celebrations

At least three coal companies have publicly announced new opportunities for jobs in coal mining, just a few days after President Donald Trump touted an affinity for coal in pulling out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Alpha Natural Resources Inc. announced 50 new jobs will be coming along with a new underground mine backed by more than 8.8 million tons of metallurgical coal reserves near Pettus, W.Va., that will begin production as early as July. Reportedly, via video on June 7, Trump assured miners at a new Corsa Coal Corp. operation celebrating its opening in Pennsylvania that he was fighting for them in Washington, D.C. Earlier in the week, the Appalachian News-Express reported that a Southern Coal Corp. affiliate was opening a surface mine in Pike County that would employ 110 workers.

Metallurgical coal producers have recently been increasing production in the wake of an improvement in the international market. In its announcement, Alpha said it is "strategically increasing production" to supply the growing demand.

"We are thrilled to be bringing mining jobs back to our counties," said Charlie Bearse, Alpha's vice president of operations. "When you have good jobs, it benefits the many businesses, schools and charities that rely on a strong local economy to serve their communities."

Alpha's new Panther Eagle mine is expected to produce 110,000 tons of metallurgical coal this year.

Corsa Coal noted at the end of 2016 that the development of its Acosta mine, which started in September of that year, was part of the company's response to global shortages of metallurgical coal. It was not clear if the new Southern mine produced metallurgical coal, though the company has historically mined significant amounts of the commodity.

The met coal market recently tightened and became more appealing to producers in the wake of international events such as a cyclone that disrupted production in Australia. Other producers looking to expand metallurgical coal supply in the U.S. include Ramaco Resources Inc.

Recent reports have suggested some producers are struggling more than others to find employees as met coal production mines are opening.