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St. Louis-based Arch Coal to lay off about 750 workers in Appalachia

Updated 4:42 p.m. with additional layoffs and information.

One of the world's largest coal producers, St. Louis-based Arch Coal, says it will lay off about 750 workers in the Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia coalfields.

It's the latest setback for an industry struggling for market share as utilities switch to cleaner and cheaper alternatives.

Officials with Arch Coal Inc. announced Thursday that almost 600 of the job losses will be in Kentucky.

The company says its subsidiaries will close three mining complexes - two in Kentucky and one in West Virginia. It is temporarily idling another complex in Kentucky and curtailing production at other operations in the three states.

Earlier today, Perry County Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble said he was told of the layoffs by an Arch executive. The layoffs will affect about 50 miners in the southeastern Kentucky county, Noble said.

He said the county has lost nearly one-third of its mining jobs in the last year.

"This is just a start, I think," he said in a telephone interview.

Noble said the layoffs are a result of utilities switching to alternative fuels.

The share of U.S. electricity that comes from coal is forecast to fall below 40 percent for the year - the lowest level since the government began collecting this data in 1949. Four years ago, it was 50 percent. By the end of this decade, it is likely to be near 30 percent.

Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, also said he was informed of the layoffs by an Arch executive.

Bissett said layoffs will result in "an incredibly difficult time" for the affected miners and their families.

"Our hearts go out to them and the hope is that new mining activities will occur in the future to allow these folks a good opportunity in eastern Kentucky," he said.

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