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Interview: Robert Murray, Murray Energy Corporation

The Chairman, President & CEO of Murray Energy discusses how the coal industry has changed.

Earlier in 2014, Murray Energy pressed a federal lawsuit against the EPA to block new proposed carbon emissions regulation for power plants. Prior to that, you challenged the EPA around their evaluation of the potential impact of the Clean Air Act on employment in the country. Besides government policy and regulation, what do you see as the single greatest challenge for US coal producers in 2015 and why?

There is no doubt that Barak Obama, his appointed bureaucrats and radical supporters, are the single biggest threat to the United States coal industry, and to the high paying, well benefited jobs which it provides. Indeed, Murray Energy Corporation, along with nice states attorney generals, has filed four lawsuits against the Obama EPA to combat their senseless and destructive regulations. We have also participated in two others.

The lack of understanding by the public as to where their electricity comes from, and the relative costs of coal-generated electricity compared to wind and solar and other renewable energies (less than one-fifth the cost) is, perhaps, the greatest threat to coal beyond the Obama Administration.

Another threat to the coal industry, to a far lesser extent is the use of inexpensive natural gas in electrical generation plants. The economically poor operating performance of America’s railroads also has, and will impede our industry.

You recently said that you see 230 million tons of coal-fired power generation lost by 2020, of which the Illinois Basin will lose 30 million tons. Is not the right time to add around 100 million tons of coal capacity (in Hamilton and Saline counties) to Murray Energy portfolio?

Yes. When I designed Murray Energy Corporation, in the 1980s, I focused on obtaining the best coal reserves available, within concentric ellipses of large, base loaded, scrubbed power plants, with water and truck transportation.

This strategy has positioned Murray Energy to be immune, to a great extent, to the destruction of the United States coal industry by President Barack Obama and his radical followers. Our acquisition of additional reserves in Hamilton and Saline counties, in Illinois, provides The American Coal Company’s New Era Mine with the opportunity to develop a lower cost mining plan using longer wider longwall panels and provides twenty additional years of additional operation beyond the decades of mining that we already had.

With domestic US coal use on the decline, what opportunity do you see for Murray Energy to export its coal in the future? Is this a viable option and why?

Murray Energy will export approximately ten million tons of coal in 2014, which is not a great amount, but four million tons more than last year. However, as I have stated repeatedly, the export market is not a panacea for the destruction of domestic coal markets within the United States. Prices in the export market are generally lower. Further, coal sales in the export market are often arbitraged, rather than physical, transactions.

How has the coal industry changed since you joined 58 years ago?

It is entirely different from the regulatory and marketing standpoints.

Coal mines are safer for our employees, but much of the government regulatory agendas are misguided and actually interfere with miner safety. There is no subject more important than the safety of our employees.

Of course, technology has greatly improved mining methods and productivity. Management of our mines is far more difficult, as is effective employee training. Many of the managers that I have worked with over the decades could not get the job done today. Government regulation has severely hampered industry growth.

Despite these changes, some things have remained the same, including employees and their representatives, who do not understand that they must perform and be productive to compete in today’s coal marketplace, which I refer to them as “road kill’. We are now fighting over “road kill”.

During your time in the coal business you have built Murray Energy to become the largest privately-held coal-mining company in the country. Who has inspired you most in the course of your career and why?

No one person ever inspired me. It first started with my family when my father was paralyzed from the neck down when I was nine years old. He lived that way for twenty-one years. Mother had cancer. We had little income. I had to work three jobs, including in the coal mines, to support them.

I won a scholarship over three hundred students in three states to study mining engineering and never looked back. Nu there were many great persons who helped me over my life, including electric utility executives and foremen and managers whom I worked with over the years. But, the single greatest inspiration and advice that I have received has come from God. Many times, I wanted to go one way, but He pointed me in another.

We are proud of what we do at Murray Energy Corporation, and we will continue to work, every day, to ensure the survival of low cost electricity in our Country.

This content is provided by Coaltrans Conferences for informational purposes only, and it reflects the market and industry conditions and presenter’s opinions and affiliations available at the time of the presentation.

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