Whitesburg KY

Layoffs affect 85 coal miners here

Arch Coal, Inc. said layoffs affecting 85 hourly and salaried miners at its Letcher County operations are the result of the “global economic crisis.”

On May 14, the St. Louis-based company gave letters to 66 hourly and 15 salaried employees at its Cumberland River Coal Co. operations here telling them their jobs would end immediately. Arch also said it would no longer reimburse any of its remaining employees in the Eastern U.S. for their health care contributions.

“The coal industry has a long history of experiencing rapid and significant changes in demand for our product,” Robert W. Shanks, Eastern Operations President for Arch Coal wrote in an unsigned letter handed to employees. “Last summer we experienced record demand for our coal in markets all over the world. Now, as the global economic crisis has grown, the need for coal and all other forms of energy has fallen dramatically. Our customers’ coal requirements have dropped significantly and their inventories have grown to historically high levels.”

The Letcher County layoffs were caused by Arch’s decision to idle the Parson No. 1 deep mine at Eolia and to reduce production at its Blue Ridge strip mine from five loader shifts per day to four loader shifts per day. “Those two production changes also adversely affect the prep plant and load-out facility and belt corridor by reducing them from three shifts per day to two shifts per day,” Cumberland River Coal’s manager of operations, Gaither Fraizer, wrote to the employees in a second letter. Cumberland River’s offices are in Appalachia, Va.

“These are painful changes for our work force and our communi- ties,” wrote Frazier. “We have a hardworking and dedicated team and to see any of them lose their jobs is a sad occasion for us all. These changes are a direct reflection of the poor economy and subsequent lo w dem and for co al.”

The company said it had asked several other coal companies to assemble at the Pine Mountain Grill in Whitesburg yesterday (Tuesday) to take applications from workers who lost their jobs.

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