The company’s Sapphire Coal division will reportedly furlough 163 workers at the Advantage mine near Whitesburg by June 16.
While operations officials did not respond to an ILN request for comment, United spokeswoman Jennifer Guthrie told the Lexington Herald Leader local newspaper that market conditions “much like many of the people in the area are seeing” was at the root of the decision.
No information was made available on plans for the other two mines in the Sapphire complex – UZ and the Smoot Creek surface mine.
Kentucky Coal Association president Bill Bissett told the paper that weaker demand, as well as stronger regulations for coal-fired power plants and an unseasonal winter, had all been factors in the industry’s trend of layoffs.
“I think it's having a real effect, especially on eastern Kentucky,” he said.
According to federal data, Advantage, located in Letcher County, produced almost 361,000 tons in 2011 and nearly 85,000t to date this year.
United Coal is an American arm of Ukrainian miner Metinvest, which acquired it in April 2009.