The Denver Post reported June 2 that on the same day, Arch Coal told workers at its West Elk longwall mine that it will cut 80 workers, about a quarter of the workforce.
The West Elk mine is located along the North Fork of the Gunnison River. West Elk manager Jim Miller was quoted as saying: “We regret the need for this difficult action and the resulting impacts on our employees, their families and the North Fork community.” The company blamed slumping coal markets for the layoffs.
U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data shows that West Elk, under Arch Coal’s Mountain Coal Co. LLC subsidiary, produced only 521,527 tons in the first quarter of this year, against production of 5.1 million tons in 2015 and 6.2 million tons in 2014.
Arch Coal has been in Chapter 11 bankrptcy protection since Jan. 11. Other major coal producers in bankruptcy include Alpha Natural Resources and Peabody Energy.
There had been in recent years three active coal mines along the North Fork of the Gunnison and all three face troubles. The Elk Creek longwall mine of Oxbow Mining LLC has been out of production since 2013 due to geology problems and is classified as “abandoned” by MSHA. And MSHA data shows that the Bowie No. 2 longwall mine of Bowie Resources LLC produced only 33,395 tons in the first quarter of this year, following production of 1 million tons in 2015 and 2.4 million tons in 2014.