Virus-depleted coal industry eliminates 300 mining jobs

WYOMING, — An  already difficult year for coal miners just got a lot more difficult.

Per WyoFile, two major coal producers have announced that they will be laying off workers at their Powder River Basin operations on Thursday.

A total of 300 jobs that will be lost for the time being due to the ongoing coal market pressures and the economic shutdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Peabody Energy cut 170 jobs at its North Antelope Rochelle mine, that happens to be the largest in the U.S. by production.

Navajo Transitional Co. cut another 130 jobs at its Antelope Mine in Wyoming along with its Spring Creek mine in Montana.

“We know this announcement comes at a time when many are already challenged with circumstances surrounding the current national emergency, and we very much regret the added impact this difficult decision has on employees, their families and our nearby communities in northeast Wyoming,” Peabody president of U.S. operations Kemal Williamson said in a prepared statement..

NTEC, also cited COVID-19 as a reason for its decision to cut its labor despite that the company acquired three Powder River Basin mines from Cloud Peak Energy last year.

“The decision comes after weeks of monitoring the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, its existing and expected impacts on our customers, and the resulting reduction in coal demand,” NTEC said in a prepared statement. “We will seek to bring back employees as economic and market conditions improve.”

Powder River Basin has cut more than 400 jobs since the start of 2020. Kiewit’s Buckskin mine and Peabody cut a combined total of 110 jobs at North Antelope Rochelle in March.

Blackjewel, although it locked its doors last summer that left many jobs at its Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines into question, resumed operations at both mines in 2019 with a reduced workforce.

Per Robery Gobdy, a University of Wyoming Energy Economist, depending on how long the coronavirus pandemic lasts, the coal industry in Wyoming could see doubled losses from its projection in 2020.

Prior to the pandemic, the states industry was looking at more than a 15% decline compared to the year before. To add fuel to the fire, 2019 was Wyomings lowest coal production in 2019 years.

Godby, who had been monitoring the U.S. Energy Information Administration data, said weekly coal deliveries, ending March 9 averaged 4.5 millions tons compared to 5.3 tons for all of 2019.

The COVID-19 economic shutdown has resulted in Wyoming’s weekly coal deliveries falling to 3.8 millions tons since March 9. The 28% decline has resulted in doubled losses than what the industry was expecting.

“COVID-19 has doubled the losses we were already seeing,” Godby said.

The federal government also objected to a proposal by Arch Coal and Peabody Energy that would pair the companies coal mining operations. Godby said that if the two companies were allowed to merge and close their smaller mines, they could help “right-size” the number of Powder River Basin coal mines that are chasing a shrinking customer market.

Godby also said that if the two companies aren’t allowed to merge to correct the “over-capacity,” then the industry in Wyoming could see far more companies filing for bankruptcy, as well as the closures of small, less-financially stable producers in the basin.


Categories: Coronavirus, Wyoming News