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James River Coal Idles Five Mines as Loss Widens

James River Coal Co., a producer of the fuel in the Midwest and Central Appalachia, reported its biggest loss in at least eight years and said it idled five underground mines after a decline in demand.

James River idled mines in Kentucky and West Virginia and reduced output at three surface mines, cutting production capacity by 3 million tons, the Richmond, Virginia-based company said in a statement today. The shares fell 6.7 percent to $2.38 in New York.

U.S. coal producers reduced output by 6.9 percent, or 75.2 million tons, in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. Demand for the fuel slumped amid mild weather and competition from natural gas.

James River’s fourth-quarter loss widened to $76.9 million, or $2.21 a share, from $28.5 million, or 82 cents, a year earlier. The loss excluding a goodwill impairment writedown and a gain from repurchasing debt was $1.59 a share, wider than the $1.37 average of 11 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales fell 35 percent to $232.2 million from a year earlier.

James River said it isn’t issuing production and cost guidance. It’s also still looking at “options to strengthen our balance sheet and improve our liquidity.”

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