Updated Tue, Sep 17, 2013 3:41 pm
James River Coal Company announced Monday it has furloughed approximately 525 full time coal workers and is idling production at three operations in eastern Kentucky. This is the second major layoff by the company in six months.
According to new release from the company, the operations are the McCoy Elkhorn mines and prep plant in Pike and Floyd Counties, the Bledsoe mines and prep plants in Leslie and Harlan Counties and the Long Branch Surface mine in London, Ky. The company says the layoffs are due to weak domestic and international coal markets. At this time they do not have a date when operations could be restarted.
Our sister station, WYMT, says a letter given to them by a furloughed miner at a Bledsoe mine, says employees will keep their benefits for up to three months
Bill Bissett, President of the Kentucky Coal Association reacted to the news of more layoffs in the coal fields.
"It's important for people to remember for everyone one direct lob lost we lose at least three other jobs that are dependent on that coal miner for their livelihood, so this is a very very serious economic time for Eastern Kentucky. There's really nowhere else in the country that has felt the kind of loss in production and employment like we've seen in Eastern Kentucky," said Bissett.
Back in March, James River Coal announced it was closing mines and reducing coal production by 3 million tons at operations in Kentucky, West Virginia and Indiana.
The company idled five underground mines ( Abner Branch, Mine 16, Mine 6A, Mine 31,and Jellico), two preparation plants (BL1 Plant and Burke, and one load-out facility(Sunny Knot). It also has reduced production at three surface mines (Frasure, Buckeye, and Montgomery Creek).
The moves impacted about 400 employees and contractors.
James River mines thermal coal used for power plants and metallurgical coal used to make steel.