A coal yard in Norton, Va. (Sarah Vogelsong/Virginia Mercury)
Virginia’s largest coal mining operation is set to get even larger after Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration announced a deal between the state and Coronado Global Resources to expand operations and production at the company’s Buchanan Mine Complex in Buchanan County.
On Tuesday, the administration said Coronado will invest $169.1 million to increase the capacity of the Buchanan mine and expects to create 181 new jobs “paying above the average prevailing wage over four years.”
The investment “demonstrate(s) a commitment to ensuring Virginia remains the energy capital of the East Coast,” said Sen. Todd Pillion, R-Abingdon, who also serves as co-chair of the public-private partnership InvestSWVA that helped secure the deal.
The Buchanan mine run by Coronado is Virginia’s biggest producer of coal. Of the roughly 11.3 million tons of coal mined in Virginia in 2021, over 4.8 million tons came from the complex, according to data from the Virginia Department of Energy.
In the same year, the facility employed about a quarter of the state’s coal mine workers — 510 of Virginia’s overall 1,949 as reported to Virginia Energy. Since then, the number of workers at Buchanan has risen to nearly 600.
Like many other remaining active coal mines in Virginia, the Buchanan mine produces metallurgical coal, a high-quality ore used in steelmaking. Virginia Energy has estimated that approximately 70% of Virginia coal is metallurgical.
Gerry Spindler, CEO of Coronado, said in a statement that the company sees “great potential for capitalizing on the growing demand for steel not only for construction and transportation infrastructure but also renewable energy component parts.”
The deal with Virginia, which a party to negotiations said was completed in 10 weeks, includes a $3.5 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist both Buchanan and Tazewell counties with the project.
Coronado did not respond to questions about the scale of its expansion, the drivers of it or the salaries the company intends to offer.
Suzanne Clark, a spokesperson for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, said the performance agreement linked to the grant has not yet been finalized.
Despite declines during the COVID-19 pandemic, coal production has been resurging in Virginia over the past year. Virginia Energy began seeing an uptick in applications for new mining permits and licenses to sell coal in summer 2021, and exports have risen at Norfolk’s coal terminals.
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