After applying for black lung benefits, Robert Murray, founder and former president of the now-bankrupt coal company Murray Energy Corp., announced Monday he was leaving the business after more than 60 years in the industry.
Murray Energy emerged from bankruptcy protection last month as American Consolidated Natural Resources (ACNR). The 80-year-old Murray was named chairman of the board of the new company, which remains the largest privately-held underground coal company in the United States.
“No one has been more devoted to the industry and ACNR’s business than Mr. Murray,” said Robert Moore, the president and CEO of the new company. Moore is also Murray’s nephew. “When others shied away from the industry he dug in and worked hard for the industry and for our business.”
Murray has been named “chairman emeritus,” according to a press release. Eugene Davis will replace Murray as chair of the board.
Murray founded the company in 1988. The outspoken mining executive railed against Obama-era climate and mining regulations and has been an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump. Early in Trump’s term, the coal magnate delivered a detailed action plan aimed at helping the declining industry.
Last month, the Ohio Valley ReSource reported that Murray has filed an application with the U.S. Department of Labor for black lung benefits. According to the documents, Murray is reportedly in poor health, relying heavily on oxygen and “near death.”
Murray and his company for years fought against federal mine safety regulations aimed at reducing the debilitating disease, including spearheading a 2014 lawsuit over a federal rule that strengthened control of coal dust in mines.
Murray says he began working in the coal mines as a teenager. At the North American Coal Corporation, he ascended through the ranks from miner to being named president and CEO in 1983.
Murray mining operations have also had a number of high-profile mine safety incidents over the years, including the disastrous collapse of the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah in 2007 that resulted in the deaths of nine miners and rescuers.