The economy in southern West Virginia is suffering due to the collapsing of the coal industry and it’s not hard to find reports of layoffs. But an international coal company called ArcelorMittal Princeton is expanding operations at a McDowell County mine bringing 50 to 75 jobs back to the region.
On Thursday, coal miners walked into the Workforce West Virginia office, resumes in hand.
Jason Mathews from Falls Mills, Virginia is one of about 30 men waiting in line down a long hallway. Matthews was laid off from a coal prep plant on Monday, and he needs work. He’s never really considered looking into another profession.
“Around here everything’s tied in with coal anyway, down to the convenience store,” Matthews said. “It would be nice to get something else in but everything’s tied in real big with it.”
There were about 133 applications gathered in Mercer County for the limited coal mine jobs. Earlier this week at a job fair in McDowell County, 210 people applied for the 50 to 75 jobs that are now available at a mine in McDowell County. ArcelorMittal owns the mine.
Workforce West Virginia Employment Programs Office Manager Lisa Collins lives in McDowell County. She’s been with Workforce for 15 years. McDowell is one of six in southern West Virginia with an economy that’s so bad, researchers compare it to the Great Depression.
“Some of the southern part of the state is very dependent on coal,” Collins said. “So without any other industries in McDowell County of course it’s going to be a lot harder hit than some of the other areas.”
Not all of the applicants are out of work, though. Some of the men were looking for better opportunities like higher wages or more health benefits.
Applicants traveled from places like northern West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky to apply for the limited mining positions. Experienced miners that couldn’t make the job fairs but want to apply can drop off a resume at one of the Workforce locations in McDowell or Mercer.
In an email, a spokesperson for ArcelorMittal says they’re hiring for this McDowell County mine to in order to keep “2017 production in line with improved global demand for metallurgical coal.”
Met coal is used for making iron and steel.