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Coal may be hot, but cooler if you can't mine it


NEW YORK, Oct 31 (Reuters): With coal fetching sky-high prices, mining companies should be making money as fast as they can dig it out of the ground and ship it to customers.
But not when there is a shortage of skilled miners, and the railroads are backed up.
That's what Massey Energy Co., one of the Big Four US coal companies, has discovered.
His comments came after the Richmond, Virginia-based company reported a healthy third-quarter profit Thursday on strong pricing for coal. But at the same time, it said production is struggling to keep pace with demand.
Earlier, Massey had warned earnings would fall short of estimates because of lower shipping volumes and higher costs, in part due to fuel price hikes after Hurricane Katrina.
The company also cautioned it faced profit problems this year because of rail delivery disruptions that would keep it, like many of its competitors, from shipping as much coal as it could produce from the older Central Appalachian coalfields of Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia.