Home » Whitesburg, Henderson Mines to Close; 500-Plus Coal Jobs Lost

Whitesburg, Henderson Mines to Close; 500-Plus Coal Jobs Lost

By Lane Report Staff

Citing a warmer than usual winter that resulted in decreased demand, two coal companies are laying off a total of more than 300 employees at Kentucky mines in Whitesburg and Henderson County.

Sapphire Coal Co. has announced plans to close its Advantage mine in Whitesburg by mid-June, resulting in the layoff of 163 workers. On the other end of the state, Patriot Coal Corp. is closing its Freedom mine in Henderson County, leaving 156 workers without a job. According to a local report by The (Henderson) Gleaner, seven employees at the Bluegrass mining complex office in Henderson may also be laid off and up to 37 people may be let go from the Grand Eagle coal prep plant in Henderson, bringing the total number of Henderson-area jobs lost to 200.

“Thermal coal markets remain weak as a result of the mild winter, coupled with low natural gas prices and reduced demand for electricity related to the economic downturn,” said Patriot Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Bennett K. Hatfield. “We are taking this step to align production with committed sales.”

Hatfield noted that the company had already idled three smaller thermal coal mines in the first quarter and that counting the Henderson County closing, the company has reduced annual thermal production by more than 4 million tons compared with 2011. As a result, Patriot is not producing any thermal coal this year that has not already been sold.

Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, told The Lexington Herald-Leader that a number of factors have contributed to the industry’s woes. Bissett cited lower demand from manufacturers, who have been struggling through the economic downturn, and stronger federal regulation of coal-fired power plants.