Thursday, June 13, 2002

Layoffs may signal another slowdown in coal mining

The Associated Press

        WHITESBURG, Ky. — Layoffs in the coal mining industry may be a sign that last year's economic upswing may be short lived.

        Coastal Coal Co., a subsidiary of El Paso Energy, has shut down one mine and laid off more than a hundred workers from operations in Letcher County.

        El Paso Energy spokesman Mel Scott said the company's Black Thunder Mine No. 3 at Defeated Creek has been closed and half of the Red Star Mine west of Blackey has been idled, with 123 workers losing their jobs.

        “I think a lot of it has to do with market conditions for coal,” Mr. Scott told the Mountain Eagle of Whitesburg. “There has been a decline in the coal market and subsequently in the coal price.”

        Karen Middleton, regional manager of the Kentucky Department for Employment Services, said the layoffs are being treated as permanent because the company has not notified employees or her agency of a date when employees could return to work.

        Mr. Scott said it was not certain whether the mines will reopen.

        “We're in business,” he said. “If the demand was there, we'd have to re-evaluate it.”


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