More mine layoffs set

Nov 2, 2012 The Associated Press

GILLETTE -- Black Hills Corp. has laid off 11 of its workers at the Wyodak coal mine north of Gillette amid declining production.

The layoffs, which leave the surface coal mine with 69 employees, are in response to changing market conditions, Black Hills external affairs manager Wes Ashton said.

"We are realigning our workforce needs with production level and going to use that to continue to provide low-cost coal to our customers," he said.

"We will continue to serve all five of the coal-fired generation stations that are in Neil Simpson Complex just outside of Gillette. All five of them incorporate the modern emission controls from the EPA and the new EPA standards that are in places."

The Wyodak mine was expected to produce 4.5 million tons of coal this year after producing 5.6 million tons last year. Production so far this year has been 3.1 million tons.

Ashton said he didn't have details at this point about how the layoffs would affect coal production during the rest of the year.

Those laid off included administration employees.

Subsidiaries of Rapid City, S.D.-based Black Hills Corp. include utilities Black Hills Power, which serves 68,000 electricity customers in the Black Hills region; Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power, which serves 39,300 electricity customers and 34,500 natural gas customers in the Cheyenne area; and Black Hills Energy, which provides electricity services to about 94,000 customers in southeastern Colorado and gas utility services to about 5,000 customers in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, according to the Black Hills website.

The layoffs come a month after another coal producer, Alpha Natural Resources, announced it would cut production by 16 million tons and eliminate 1,200 jobs company-wide. Four hundred workers were laid off immediately with mine closures in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

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