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Arch Coal cuts staff at its top producing mine in Wyoming by 15%

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Arch Coal cuts staff at its top producing mine in Wyoming by 15%

Continuinga contraction at the country's largest coal mines, Arch Coal Inc. announced that it is reducing staff at itsBlack Thunder mine in Wyoming by about 15%, citing "persistent weakness inthe thermal coal" market.

The announcementcomes on the same day the PeabodyEnergy Corp. confirmeda reduction of 235 workers at its North Antelope Rochelle mine, also located inWyoming.

"Weregret the need for this difficult step and the impacts it will have on our employees,their families and the local community," said Keith Williams, Arch's presidentof Western operations. "We have made every effort to preserve as many positionsas possible, and this decision was made only after a number of other cost-cuttingmeasures were exhausted. We deeply value the hard work, professionalism, and significantcontributions of the employees who have been affected by this reduction in force.We want to thank the employees for their years of faithful and dedicated serviceto Black Thunder."

One ofthe country's largest coal producers, Arch has struggled against a steady streamof market and regulatory challenges in recent years and was moved to file for bankruptcyprotection in January.

The lateststaff reduction was attributed to "mild weather, persistently low natural gasprices and high utility inventory levels, as well as recent coal plant retirementsstemming from the implementation of the [U.S. EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards]rule."

WhileArch insisted that coal production in the Powder River Basin, where the Black Thundermine is located, will "remain an essential energy source for the domestic andglobal power generation sector for decades to come," the company recently suspendeda project that would have been among the country's largest mines. On March 10, Arch announced that it wouldsuspend its efforts tosecure a mining permit for the Otter Creek coal reserves near Ashland, Mont., blaming"capital constraints, near-term weakness in coal markets and an extended anduncertain permitting outlook."

The BlackThunder mine produced 99.5 million tons in 2015, employing an average of a littleover 1,600 employees, according to data compiled by the U.S. Mine Safety and HealthAdministration, making it the second highestproducing mine in the PRB for 2015.