Throughout the country, smaller coal companies have closed their mines, and the largest publicly traded Alabama coal company, Walter Energy, has become a takeover target. That company has seen its stock price fall from nearly $150 per share in 2011 to about $36 per share today, and in December, the Daily Mail reported that British-based BHP Billiton was considering a takeover bid.
Because the Drummond Co. is privately held, it’s footing in the market is not as clear. At the same time the company idled Mr. Tom in 1995, it began one of the largest coal mining operations in the world in Colombia. While those operations have been productive and profitable for the company, they have also been fraught with labor strife and accusations of human rights violations. In comparison, coal mining in Alabama is less turbulent, even if not as profitable.
Data published by the U.S. Department of Energy shows that metallurgical coal exports from Mobile have increased slightly over last year, even if prices have fallen by half in some markets.
That means, to stay profitable, coal companies must make their operations more efficient.
And despite its size, Mr. Tom is nothing but efficient, Wathen says. The machine not only has an environmental impact, he says, but it also makes many employees unnecessary.
In November, Rock Mountain Mining, a division of Twin Pines L.L.C., laid off 124 employees.
“In my opinion, the layoffs in that area are due to the fact that Tom is going to replace those men,” Wathen says. “The closer that thing gets to that coal field, the more people are going to get laid off.”
Environmentalists get blasted for being labeled as “job-killers” when it’s the companies that cut employees and replace them with machines, he says.
“Machines like Tom and long-wall mining put more people out of work than we do,” Wathen said.<< previous 1 2 3 4 5