Premier Elkhorn’s PE-4 and PE-5 mines, both in Pike County, are being affected by parent company TECO Coal’s forced decision to either minimise costs in the face of dropping coal prices, or shut mines down.
While TECO did not release a public statement on the announcement, it did tell local television news outfit WYMT the mines’ productivity and efficiency levels were not meshing with the current market outlook.
“[It] does not seem to make economic sense, unless we can achieve improvements in those areas," company director of personnel Paul Matney said.
If PE-4 and 5 are idled, TECO intends to offer staff positions at other properties, the news station said. However, it also noted the company was optimistic in the mines’ potential to become more cost-effective and retain the jobs of those workers.
The operator’s decision on the closures is expected in early June.
Just last week, two other large operators – Cliffs Natural Resources and Massey Energy – announced they would follow through with lay-off and production cut plans for operations in West Virginia and Alabama.
In West Virginia, the Green Ridge No. 1 mine of Pinnacle Mining, a subsidiary of Cliffs, is being “indefinitely idled”; the Pinnacle preparation plant will have reduced operations; and the Pinnacle operation will be idled for two months beginning on April 13.
In Alabama, the Oak Grove mine and Concord preparation facility at Cliffs’ Oak Grove Resources will also see reduced operating levels.
At Green Ridge, 90 employees will be affected, 200 jobs will be lost at the Pinnacle mine and 65 workers will see pink slips at the Oak Grove complex.
Also in West Virginia, Massey Energy has temporarily laid off 300 miners and idled its Black Castle surface complex in Boone County. Massey did not return an ILN request for comment, so it is unknown if the idle is permanent.