GRUNDY, Va. (WJHL) — Australian-based Coronado Global Resources expects to create 181 high-paying mining jobs with a $169 million expansion of its Buchanan Mine Complex, Virginia officials and the company announced Tuesday.

The expansion, which is being aided by a $3.525 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund, will increase the production of high-grade metallurgical coal that’s used in steelmaking. The company purchased the mine from Consol Energy in 2016 and expects to add the jobs over four years.

The complex — which already has 600 employees — is Virginia’s largest metallurgical coal mine and has been producing since 1983, with “longwall” mining having commenced in 1987.

Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City) tells WFXR’s sister station, WJHL, that the expansion was mutually beneficial for the company and the Commonwealth, especially southwest Virginia. He calls it great news for the county, which has been hard hit economically for years by losses in the coal industry and more recently by devastating flooding.

“Really, the people were hurting over in Buchanan County, and this is just a good news story that we really should celebrate,” Kilgore said.

He says metallurgical coal is in high demand domestically and globally for use in steel production.

“This sets us apart from other areas of the world,” Kilgore said. “The met coal in the Appalachian basin is one of only two areas in the world where we have such a big area of met coal.”

The other is in Australia’s Bowen Basin. Kilgore expects the state’s $3.525 million grant to pay for itself multiple times over “in taxes and investments and things of that nature.”

He says the area’s legislative delegation, Invest SWVA, an economic development entity, and Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office all realized the importance of the opportunity.

Del. Will Morefield, state Sen. Travis Hackworth, and state Sen. Todd Pillion “really stepped up to make sure we were where we needed to be as a Commonwealth to make sure Coronado did this expansion in Buchanan County,” Kilgore said. “I can’t say enough about Coronado’s commitment to Buchanan County and what they are doing there.”

The company’s CEO, Gerry Spindler, says Coronado was committed to its Virginia operation, which also includes part of Tazewell County.

“(We) see great potential for capitalizing on growing demand for steel not only for construction and transportation infrastructure but also renewable energy component parts,” Spindler said in a media release.

Buchanan County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff Cooper says the community has a long-standing partnership with the company.

“We are proud to support the company’s additional investment in our skilled workforce and in existing operations supplying the global steel market,” Cooper stated.

According to Kilgore, the region hopes to become “the energy capital of the East Coast for Virginia” in a variety of ways.

“We’ve positioned ourselves legislatively as a group to not only help with coal (but) to help with gas but also put ourselves out there available for solar and for small nuclear,” he said. “We’ve been that energy resource since the early 1900s, and we want to continue to do that.”

Kilgore says the region remains home to a highly talented workforce and one that has needed opportunities in recent years.

“You get a coal miner, they can be an electrician, sheet metal, they weld, they can do it all, and I think that’s what a lot of employers are seeing – that we can really provide that trained workforce,” he said. “A lot of them are already trained and they don’t have to come in and reinvent the wheel, so we’re excited about that. We’re hoping that we have other announcements in the near future on other opportunities.”

According to officials, the Virginia Jobs Investment Program will provide funding and services to support Coronado’s employee training programs. The company plans to begin the expansion late this year.