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Citing pandemic, coal mine operator lays off 130 employees in Montana and Wyoming

Posted at 2:58 PM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 16:58:49-04

The tribal owner of Montana's largest coal mine announced Wednesday it's laying off 130 workers in the Powder River basin because of slumping demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials with the Navajo Transitional Energy Company (NTEC) said they are laying off 73 workers at the Spring Creek Mine in Decker and another 57 at the Antelope Mine in Wyoming.

The Spring Creek mine had 260 employees. The mine will try to hire back the laid-off workers when economic conditions improve.

Officials with the company said the unanticipated economic conditions from the pandemic and a decrease in coal orders led to the decision.

“We regret the hardship that this decision creates for families and our communities,” said CEO Clark Moseley in a written statement. “We are confident in our projections for future sales, and all mines will continue operations to fulfill orders as we look to better days ahead.”

Coal from these mines is shipped west for ports in Canada, where it's eventually burned in Asian power plants. The mines also supply plants in the midwestern United States.

NTEC is wholly owned by the Navajo Nation in New Mexico and bought the mines from the bankrupt Cloud Peak Energy last year. The firm is working to put up a $110 million reclamation to claim the full permit to operate the Spring Creek Mine. Cloud Peak is currently the designated mine operator there.