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Virginia coal production climbs

War in Ukraine adds to demand already bolstered by higher steel production
A CSX train hauls coal near Texas Beach along the James River in Richmond.
A CSX train hauls coal near Texas Beach along the James River in Richmond.(2019 photo by Robert Zullo, Virginia Mercury)
Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 7:21 AM EDT
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Virginia coal production remains high, fueled by ongoing demand for steel as the U.S. embarks on an ambitious program of infrastructure investment and disruptions in energy markets linked to the war in Ukraine.

Today, most of the coal produced in Virginia is metallurgical, a high-quality form of coal used for steelmaking.

“Overall, demand for metallurgical coal is on the rise,” said Ben Beakes, president of the Metallurgical Coal Producers Association, the successor organization to the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance. “Demand levels are some of the highest the industry has seen in many years.”

U.S. Energy Information Administration data show significant increases in Virginia’s production of coal overall. The agency’s June 2 weekly report found that compared to this time last year, the commonwealth’s production was up 15.5 percent. Within the broader Appalachian region, production is up 8 percent overall.

The uptick is not unexpected: beginning late last summer, the Virginia Department of Energy began receiving a wave of applications for new mining permits and licenses to sell coal.

Many of the trends cited by Beakes to explain the increase in mining activity in November still are in play, he said. The world’s emergence from lockdowns instituted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is driving increased coal production as economies come back to life, while the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is expanding the market for steel, a material largely produced using metallurgical coal.

Russia’s war against Ukraine is also contributing to higher demand for Virginia coal because some of the state’s mines produce a particular type of metallurgical coal — known as pulverized coal for injection or PCI — those steel manufacturers previously sourced from Russia.

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.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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