Last updated: July 17. 2013 1:43PM - 2158 Views
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PIKEVILLE, Ky – High Ridge Mining, a Kentucky corporation owned by long time coal operator Bill Smith, a former vice president of Sidney Coal, has announced the development of seven deep mines in Pike County.

The mine locations will be spread throughout Pike County, with locations at Big Creek, Johns Creek, and Pond Creek. According to Mr. Smith, his company will begin the hiring process in the coming months and each of the seven mines set to open will employee 36 miners. Mr. Smith stated that the hiring process will be administered and conducted by the Office of Employment and Training in Pikeville.

“We look forward to working with Mr. Smith and helping out-of-work coal miners and their families,” Trina Allen, Operations Administrator for the Office of Employment and Training in Pikeville, said. “It is important for anyone interested to know they have to apply for these positions through our office in Pikeville.”

Smith is excited about the partnership.

“Since some 4,500 miners are now unemployed in eastern Kentucky, working in connection with the office of Employment and Training is a necessary step to quickly and effectively begin the hiring process”, Smith said.

Charles Carlton, Pike County Director of Energy and Community Development, is an expert on the subject of energy extraction and production, said Pike County’s coal industry has always been volatile.

“Every time our coal industry hits rock bottom, it’s not the big national companies that bring it back, it’s the local companies,” Carlton said. “Mr. Smith had a vision a few years back and it is paying off here in 2013. (Smith) is taking advantage of the need for coal in foreign markets. This won’t be the last we hear about our coal being exported to Asia and Europe because the market for our coal is no longer domestic. Washington has killed our domestic market.”

Smith is optimistic about his newest endeavor.

“We plan on mining a million tons a year,” Smith said. “The first train is loaded, I’ve put my heart and soul into this venture and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to offer jobs to the best miners in the world.”

Smith, who resides with his family at Raccoon Creek, has vast experience and knowledge in the production and marketing of coal. Smith began making preparations for his new operation some time ago; leasing 100 million tons of Pike County coal in the Alma, Pond Creek and Cedar Grove seams and by securing the necessary permits that are required to begin production. Smith has also found a buyer for the coal that is to be mined; most of the coal will be exported to China.

Smith said the future of the coal industry was overseas and he immediately looked to the Asian and European markets, specifically China and India, both of which have a rapidly growing need for coal.

“This isn’t the last time we will hear about the exporting of Eastern Kentucky coal to Asia and Europe,” Wayne T. Rutherford, Pike County Judge-Executive said. “Mr. Smith is ahead of the curve in creating this connection to the Asian and European markets. Coal has become out of fashion domestically due to unnecessary intense restrictions and regulations imposed on the coal industry by the federal government. The short term economic outlook for coal seems dismal, but due to the growth taking place in Asia, coal is needed to sustain it, making the long term outlook for Eastern Kentucky coal rather bright. Local coal operators such as Bill Smith possess the experience and knowledge to begin healing our ailing coal industry and the local economy. Due to Mr. Smith’s foresight, over 250 jobs are expected to be added in Pike County, which is the first step in the healing process and bringing back our signature industry.”

Gov. Paul Patton, former coal operator, current President of the University of Pikeville and member of the Pike County Industrial Development Economic Authority (IDEA) Board, thinks this announcement is good news.

“This is certainly good news for Pike County and all of Eastern Kentucky,” Patton said. “Our coal miners and executives are as efficient and productive as any in the world. The University of Pikeville stands ready to provide the education necessary for our businesses to compete in the global market. Our new MBA program is just the tool necessary to make sure our businesses operate at the highest level of efficiency possible.”

The Office of Employment and Training is at 138 College St. in Pikeville and can be reached at 606-433-7721 or by e-mail at trina.allen@ky.gov. The office is open Monday through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon.

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