Coal continues to drive West Virginia economy: Hamilton

The following is an op-ed from Chris Hamilton, president and CEO of the West Virginia Coal Association.

Throughout our state’s 160-year history, the coal industry has been a major driver behind West Virginia’s economy, and billions of dollars of new investment will ensure that similar benefits are generated for the next 160 years.

Despite all the hype you hear about a zero-carbon economy and transitioning to renewable, or intermittent energy forms, West Virginia’s metallurgical and thermal coals will continue to drive our economy while remaining a stable component of our state and nation’s energy mix.

John Deskins, the state’s leading economist and director of West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, recently concluded that West Virginia coal and coal-fired power generators account for over $14 billion in annual economic activity for our state and supply 24/7, baseload electricity for our state and the PJM region.

Despite the decade-long downturn, coal continues to sustain 50,000-plus West Virginia jobs, provide record level severance tax collections, and places food on the table for Mountain State families.

Here’s a few additional facts we thought you should know:

  • World coal use is growing with over 8 billion tons consumed in 2022.
  • Coal accounts for over 50% of West Virginia’s total export product.
  • West Virginia-produced coal accounts for over 40% of our nation’s total coal exports.
  • Forty countries and 30 states rely on West Virginia coal to power their energy needs.
  • West Virginia produces the highest quality metallurgical coal found anywhere in the world and 69% of the base fuel for domestic steel making.

Remarkably, there’s been over $8 billion in new investments in West Virginia mining operations over the past several years, including approximately $2 billion in 2022-2023. This important industry will continue to thrive and provide the jobs, taxes, incomes, and spending power our state so desperately needs.

A more recent study by Deskins and his team of economists valued West Virginia metallurgical coal used in the domestic steel manufacturing process at $186 billion, while providing 547,000 American jobs throughout our country. West Virginia Coal Association members account for the lion share of all metallurgical coal produced in West Virginia.

Our state’s thermal and metallurgical coal producers stand united in support of good public policy to promote and sustain the growth of our extractive industries in West Virginia. We oppose the woke and liberal dimensions of state and federal governments desiring to see this amazing economic engine and honorable profession diminished or removed from our great state.

We invite you to join us as a “Friend of Coal” and take an active role in standing up for miners and their families, this great American industry and the benefits it provides to all West Virginians. 

To join Friend of Coal, or to learn more about the group’s efforts, visit

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