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West Virginia to get $5.6 million for laid-off miners

CHARLESTON (AP) — West Virginia will receive an additional $5.6 million in federal grants to help coal workers affected by mine closures and layoffs.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Thursday that WorkForce West Virginia will receive National Emergency grants through 2016 for displaced miners. The state received $1.8 million in 2012.

Tomblin said the Department of Labor assistance will provide re-employment services and job training for 700 mine workers.

“Layoffs and mine closures are frustrating for our miners and their families – they depend on their jobs to keep food on the table and a roof overhead,” Tomblin said in a news release.

West Virginia is the nation’s No. 2 coal producer and leads the country in coal jobs. In recent years, however, the coal industry has endured thousands of layoffs nationally.

This week, St. Louis-based Patriot Coal announced potential layoffs of at least 100 employees combined at two West Virginia locations. Patriot employs 450 workers at its Wells complex and 397 workers at its Corridor G complex near Danville.

Patriot President and Chief Executive Officer Bennett Hatfield said coal prices have dipped well below production costs at many central Appalachian mines.

Patriot filed notices under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN, which requires companies to provide notice to employees if large layoffs are possible.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin lamented the potential for lost jobs Thursday, but added that coal miners are critical to American security and economic prosperity.

“We will be working tirelessly to help these miners find jobs or retraining opportunities if the WARN Act notices come into effect,” the Democratic senator said.

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