Patriot Coal to lay off at least 100 Boone miners

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Patriot Coal announced plans Wednesday to lay off miners at two large operations in Boone County.

Patriot issued 60-day WARN Act notices for its Wells mining complex near Wharton and its Corridor G mining complex near Danville.

“What our WARN notice specifies is that we believe that at least 50 people are likely to be laid off (or) furloughed at each of those locations,” Patriot president and CEO Ben Hatfield said Wednesday on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Hatfield said the metallurgical and thermal coal markets continue to be challenging. There are nearly 850 workers at the two complexes but Hatfield said it would be “highly unlikely” that everyone would lose their jobs. He said for now it would probably be at least 100.

“We’re working hard, frankly, to minimize the number (of layoffs),” he said. “We’re struggling with mines at those locations that are simply operating at cost levels that exceed the prices that we can get at the marketplace. They are literally consuming cash.”

The Wells complex, which employs 450 workers, includes the Black Stallion Mine, CC10 Mine and Wells preparation plant. The Corridor G complex has 450 workers and includes the Hobet 21 Mine and Beth Station preparation plant.

Boone County Commissioner Mickey Brown called the announcement “devastating news.”

“Our budget is down and we lost $900,000 last year and coal severance is half of what it was. So this just adds on to more of our problems,” Brown said.

Patriot’s Hatfield said he can see metallurgical coal making a comeback by 2015 with slow recovery but there are more tough days ahead for thermal coal because of EPA regulations.

Hatfield said he knows how much the residents of the southern coalfields and their communities depend on the coal industry.

“The impact is certainly unsettling and not a message that we like to deliver,” he said.

Brown has his fingers crossed Patriot can streamline without major personnel reductions: “Hopefully it’s not as many and it’s temporary.”

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