Rosebud Mining furloughs 429 workers

This photo taken May 5, 2014, shows the stacks of the Homer City Generating Station in Homer City.
This photo taken May 5, 2014, shows the stacks of the Homer City Generating Station in Homer City.
Photo by AP
| Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, 11:42 a.m.

Rosebud Mining Co. furloughed about half its workforce and idled 20 mines this week because power plants stopped burning its coal during the warm start to the winter.

The Kittanning-based company hopes to bring back the 429 out-of-work employees by next month, though, as stockpiles ease.

“We would expect, based on the guidance from our customers, to start shipping again by the end of the month and bring everyone back in February,” company vice president Jim Barker said Tuesday.

Three mines in Ohio will remain online. The furloughed workers, who are not unionized, will maintain their benefits, Barker said.

Record warmth across the Northeast and other regions in November and December brought below-normal demand from power plants accustomed to burning lots of coal for electricity. It also cut deeply into already-low natural gas prices, prompting utilities to burn more gas when available.

Stockpiles grew at Rosebud's biggest customers in the region, including Homer City Generating Station and Keystone in Shelocta.

“Their inventory is built to the point they had to shut off delivery, and ours was built to the point we had to shut down,” Barker said. Deliveries stopped Dec. 18 and the mines were idled Monday.

Rosebud employs about 850 people and has expanded over the past two years through acquisitions.

Coal mining already was suffering nationwide because of tougher competition from cheap natural gas and tighter environmental standards for power plants. Production in 2015 fell more than 10 percent compared to the previous year, and for the last week of December was 30 percent lower than the comparable week in 2014, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Companies have shut down mines and laid off tens of thousands of miners over the past year because of the softening demand.

David Conti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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