BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) — Alpha Metallurgical Resources (AMR) posted a $401 million net income in the first quarter compared to a $33 million loss a year earlier.

The Bristol-headquartered coal company continues to see benefits of a strategic shift to producing mostly metallurgical (met) coal, which is used in the production of steel. The company emerged, eventually, from predecessor Alpha Natural Resources’ 2016 bankruptcy with a focus on met coal and a desire to shed debt and other liabilities.

Alpha, which operates two underground mines in Dickenson County, Va. and two surface mines in Wise County, Va., sold slightly less tonnage than the first quarter of 2021 (4,048 to 4,066), but swung from a loss of more than $32 million to the largest quarterly income it’s had yet.

The gains come as the company continues to pay down long term debt. CEO David Stetson said the deleveraging and a strong met coal market “have laid the groundwork for a new chapter in our company’s history, and we now expect to fully extinguish our term loan in the second quarter.”

Chief Financial Officer Andy Eidson was bullish on Alpha’s long-term future in the met coal market as he explained the takeaways from an internal analysis looking at the coming 15 years. The company expects to maintain production using its existing base of mines and “gradually improve the company’s average coal quality to a higher rank,” Eidson said, referring to met coal as a percentage of the mix.

He also said Alpha is confident it can build on its customer bases and add new ones in areas of the world “expected to exhibit the most growth in demand for met coal.”

Finally, Eidson said he believes Alpha “is well positioned to continue as a leader in the global metallurgical coal space for many years to come.”

The first quarter net earnings was a record for the company.