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Peabody to lay off workers at Ariz. coal mine, ship final tons to sole customer

Miners at Peabody Energy Corp.'s Kayenta coal mine in Arizona are preparing for staff reductions as the operation's sole customer winds down its units.

The Navajo Generating Station, which purchased about 6.6 million tons of coal from the mine in 2018, is slated to retire in December. Peabody said in an Aug. 7 statement that the mine will continue operating this month to ship out the last stockpiled coal to the plant. Peabody notified the mine's employees in June of the workforce reduction, which it said is being "handled in accordance with the current labor agreement."

The mine employs about 265 workers currently. The company did not say how many would be kept on through the reclamation process, only that it would "require a smaller workforce for several more years at a minimum." Acting General Manager Randy Lehn will manage the mine during its reclamation phase, which will employ "a smaller workforce for several more years at a minimum," Peabody stated.

"We've been a safe operator, a good steward and a great neighbor for many years," Lehn said. "We've returned lands to a higher value and will continue to do so throughout the reclamation phase."

Peabody said it is working with impacted employees to use outplacement services through the local workforce development center. The company laid off about 40 employees in late February.

"The closure comes after extensive efforts and collaborative support from many stakeholders who worked tirelessly to prevent the premature closure of NGS, protect jobs and preserve abundant, low-cost energy for Arizona residents," the company stated.

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis in an Aug. 5 release accused Peabody of dismissing union employees to replace with lower-cost reclamation workers to cut expenses.

"The layoffs are occurring even though Kayenta miners have the very expertise and heavy-equipment skills needed for the required reclamation work, which will take years to complete and require a sizeable workforce," the institute stated in a recent report published on the topic. "Peabody itself estimates cleanup associated with the Kayenta complex will take at least two years and will employ almost 200 workers, estimates that — because they come largely from Peabody — may very well be underestimating the scope of the requisite reclamation."