Decker workers lose jobs

AS MANY as 75 workers at the Decker surface complex in western Montana will be jobless in the new year, with “ongoing expense management activities” cited for the layoffs.
Decker workers lose jobs Decker workers lose jobs Decker workers lose jobs Decker workers lose jobs Decker workers lose jobs

The Decker mine, courtesy Ambre Energy.

Donna Schmidt

The Big Horn County operation ¬– co-owned by Ambre Energy subsidiary KCP and Cloud Peak Energy subsidiary Western Minerals – will cut 75 of its 160 in mid-January, according to an Associated Press report.

An Ambre Energy North America spokesman did not elaborate on its “ongoing expense management activities” impetus, but the company told the news service the layoffs were not related to a legal fight between Ambre and Cloud Peak regarding a potential expansion at the mine near the Wyoming/Montana border.

Specifically, Western Minerals claimed in July that Ambre was aware of plans to end production at Decker when it bought a half stake in Decker Coal in 2011. Officials were arguing the company – with an Australian world headquarters and a Salt Lake City-based US coal arm main office – had been acting outside the boundaries of the pair’s joint venture agreement in preparation for an expansion of Decker’s production.

The mine was slated for closure next year at the expiration of the last customer contract, though Western Minerals alleged Ambre was seeking to increase coal production with the goal of exporting it to Asia.

Ambre, which according to the AP had claimed it was not direct owner of the operation, was seeking to dismiss the case on the basis the court and US district judge Richard Cebull did not have jurisdiction. It also said no overseas contracts had been made.

Western Minerals, meanwhile, filed a motion just last week not to dismiss.

Decker, located in the Powder River Basin region, has had its production drastically reduced over the past few years from 7 million tons in 2006 to 3Mt in 2011. It had a $21.1 million net loss last year and projects that loss to widen to $11.9 million in 2012.

According to company data, the Decker complex, which mines from the East Decker and West Decker areas, produced about 300 million metric tons since operations commenced in the 1970s.

The output, which is shipped be BNSF Railway, is presently sold exclusively to the domestic market.

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