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Powder River Basin Coal Mine Furloughs Nearly 100 Workers



By Camille Erickson

May 12, 2020 - Another Powder River Basin coal mine has reduced its workforce in response to weak market conditions for coal during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Decker Coal Company furloughed 98 miners Friday, sending them home until May 26, according to a company statement. The Decker coal mine is located in Big Horn County in southern Montana just north of Wyoming’s border. Many of the employees live in Sheridan and commute the 16 miles to the coal field.

“We are sorry for our dedicated workers, their families and the community who are directly affected,” Leonard Wolff, the general manager at Decker Coal Company, said in a statement. “We look forward to resuming contracted deliveries as soon as possible.”

Decker coal mine’s domestic customers stopped accepting coal shipments recently because of the downturn in demand for the commodity, the company told the Star-Tribune. The owners reported no “health-related issues” at the mine and plan to bring back the 98 furloughed workers in about two weeks.

The mine produced over 1 million tons of coal and employed 164 workers during the first quarter of this year, according to U.S. Mining Safety and Health Administration data.

The Energy Information Administration, the country’s leading energy data agency, forecasts the U.S. will produce 22 percent less coal in 2020 than it did last year.

Friday’s workforce cuts came on the heels of mass layoffs throughout the Powder River Basin this year. Nearly 400 miners have been laid off in the basin since the coronavirus reached Wyoming and Montana. Navajo Transitional Energy Company laid off 73 miners at the neighboring Spring Creek Mine in April.