Harvey said Tuesday that Marcellus shale production is a more profitable venture for two key reasons.
"The first is the lower-cost nature of the Marcellus resulting from drilling efficiencies such as pad drilling, and the second is sales price uplift associated with a higher concentration of liquids," he said.
Christopher Bise, a professor who is also the Robert E. Murray Chair of Mining Engineering at WVU's College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, said the sale would also help Murray Energy by nearly tripling its available coal reserves in the area.
"From Murray Energy's standpoint, they see the reserves to ensure that the company has a long-term future in the area," Bise said.
He said as mining companies look toward the future, they would often look for coal reserves that are in close proximity to their existing mining operations.
"Some other areas may be dwindling, so they could be looking for other locations to transfer workers," Bise said.
"It's a lot easier to buy existing mines because you already have the infrastructure in place, the entrance to the mine, etc," he said. "It's easier than starting from scratch."
Deskins said the sale likely would not result in any significant changes in the workforce since production will continue into the future.
"It doesn't mean any mines are closing or hours will be cut or layoffs," he said. "The output in these mines that are being sold will be steady."
The Bureau of Business and Economic Research reported in its 2014 West Virginia Economic Outlook that it expected state coal production to rise slightly through early 2014 and fall back by about 1.2 percent annually over the next five years as more easily mined reserves are exhausted.
Meanwhile, the bureau expects natural gas production to continue growing at an average annual rate of 17 percent through 2018.
Contact writer Jared Hunt at busin...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.