GRUNDY, Va. (WJHL) — Australian-based Coronado Global Resources expects to create 181 high-paying mining jobs with a $169 million expansion of its Buchanan Mine Complex, state officials and the company announced Tuesday.
The expansion, which is being aided by a $3.525 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund, will increase the production of high-grade metallurgical coal that’s used in steelmaking. The company, which purchased the mine from Consol Energy in 2016, expects to add the jobs over four years. The mining complex already has 600 employees.
The complex is Virginia’s largest metallurgical coal mine and has been producing since 1983, with “longwall” mining having commenced in 1987.
Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City) told News Channel 11 that the expansion was mutually beneficial for the company, the state and particularly Southwest Virginia. He called it great news for the county, which has been hard hit economically for years by losses in the coal industry and more recently by devastating flooding.
“Really, the people were hurting over in Buchanan County, and this is just a good news story that we really should celebrate,” Kilgore said.
He said metallurgical coal is in high demand domestically and globally for use in steel production.
“This sets us apart from other areas of the world,” Kilgore said. “The met coal in the Appalachian basin is one of only two areas in the world where we have such a big area of met coal.”
The other is in Australia’s Bowen Basin. Kilgore expects the state’s $3.525 million grant to pay for itself multiple times over “in taxes and investments and things of that nature.”
He said the area’s legislative delegation, Invest SWVA, an economic development entity, and Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office all realized the importance of the opportunity.
“Will Morefield (the delegate representing Buchanan County), (Sen.) Travis Hackworth with Senator (Todd) Pillion really stepped up to make sure we were where we needed to be as a Commonwealth to make sure Coronado did this expansion in Buchanan County,” Kilgore said. “I can’t say enough about Coronado’s commitment to Buchanan County and what they are doing there.”
Invest SWVA’s Will Payne said the expansion is a good example of how traditional energy resources and newer ones can align in the region.
“This project sends a message that legacy and new energy economies are connected in Southwest Virginia,” Payne told News Channel 11. “Met coal is a critical steel making input required for wind turbines, solar panels and battery components. Without companies like Coronado we wouldn’t have renewable energy assets to deploy in the first place.”
Payne said Coronado pays competitive wages and is very supportive of employees.
The company’s CEO, Gerry Spindler, said Coronado was committed to its Virginia operation, which also includes part of Tazewell County.
“(We) see great potential for capitalizing on growing demand for steel not only for construction and transportation infrastructure but also renewable energy component parts,” Spindler said in a media release.
Buchanan County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff Cooper said the community has a long-standing partnership with the company.
“We are proud to support the company’s additional investment in our skilled workforce and in existing operations supplying the global steel market,” Cooper said in the release.
Kilgore said the region hopes to become “the energy capital of the East Coast for Virginia” in a variety of ways.
“We’ve positioned ourselves legislatively as a group to not only help with coal (but) to help with gas but also put ourselves out there available for solar and for small nuclear,” he said.
“We’ve been that energy resource since the early 1900s, and we want to continue to do that.”
He said the region remains home to a highly talented workforce and one that has needed opportunities in recent years.
“You get a coal miner, they can be an electrician, sheet metal, they weld, they can do it all, and I think that’s what a lot of employers are seeing – that we can really provide that trained workforce,” he said. “A lot of them are already trained and they don’t have to come in and reinvent the wheel, so we’re excited about that. We’re hoping that we have other announcements in the near future on other opportunities.”
According to the news release, the Virginia Jobs Investment Program will provide funding and services to support Coronado’s employee training programs. The company plans to begin the expansion late this year.