FRANKFORT – Coal production at Kentucky mines decreased by 12.8 percent during the first quarter of 2016 to 11.3 million tons, according to the Kentucky Energy report. Coal production at surface mines decreased by 28 percent during the first quarter and accounted for 25 percent of total Kentucky production.
The energy report states underground mines in the state produced nearly 8.5 million tons, a reduction of 6.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2015, and accounted for 75 percent production. Western Kentucky coal mines decreased production by 5.7 percent to 6.8 million tons, and Eastern Kentucky mines decreased production by 21.6 percent to produce 4.5 million tons.
According to the energy report, the rate of Kentucky coal production in 2016 is the lowest statewide production since 1939 and the lowest in Eastern Kentucky since 1917.
“Many coal-fired power plants across the United States have closed in response to federal environmental regulations, high production costs, low natural gas prices, and low electricity demand, which has reduced demand for Kentucky coal,” the energy report states.
Approximately 85 percent of coal mined in Kentucky in 2015 was used to generate electricity at 89 power plants in 15 states. Of that amount, 3 percent went to power plants that retired coal-fired generating capacity in 2015 and another 13 percent went to plants that will close capacity before 19 percent, according to the energy report.
In Eastern Kentucky, Perry County led the state in coal production with 1.05 million tons produced in the first quarter. Pike County was a close second with 1.02 million tons produced, an 89 percent decrease from the peak production of 35.6 million tons in 1996.
Harlan County ranked third in Eastern Kentucky with 812,880 tons produced in the first quarter.
Floyd County ranked eighth in Eastern Kentucky with 153, 780 tons produced.
In Western Kentucky, Union County produced 2.1 million tons — a 3.6 percent increase — making it the leading coal producing county in the state. Hopkins County came in second with approximately 1.4 million tons produced.
According to the energy report, preliminary data indicate that Kentucky coal mines reduced on-site employment by 1,501 workers during the first quarter of 2016. As of April, an estimated 6,900 persons were employed at Kentucky coal mines, which is the lowest level recorded since 1898 when there were an average of 6,399 coal miners.
The report states there were 3,981 people employed at Eastern Kentucky coal mines during the first quarter, a decrease of 21.6 percent from the fourth quarter of 2015. Mines in Western Kentucky decreased total employment by 405 jobs.