Twentymile mine layoff rumors abound, employees confirm

Cyprus Amax Twentymile Coal Company employees say rumors that 35 employees will face a layoff within the next couple of weeks are true, but officials within the company won't substantiate the claim.

A Twentymile employee, who asked to remain unidentified, said employees were called into a meeting late last week and told 16 salaried positions and 19 hourly positions would be cut within the next few weeks. The reason given was a glut in the coal market that is driving the price down and reducing the number of sales contracts for individual companies.

The employee said they were told Twentymile had only about half the coal sold it had anticipated because two longwall mines had opened near Paonia, Colo., giving the market another source of Colorado coal.

According to Twentymile General Manager Mike Ludlow, no layoffs have occurred. He would not confirm any of the employee's statements saying the company was not prepared to comment. He did say officials were in the process of evaluating sales.

Nearly 30 Castle Valley contractors hired to do spot work have already been asked to leave and management is asking for voluntary layoffs and offering to transfer employees to another mine in the same chain, the employee said. The employee said managers are also offering to bring in a professional to help anyone who needs to prepare a resume and help to find another job.

Layoffs remain only a possibility, the employee said. It depends on whether the mine is able to get more coal contracts.

"People really aren't scared it's a coal mine," the employee said.

The workforce at Twentymile consists of workers from both Routt and Moffat counties. Twentymile Mine produces coal to generate electricity through utilities located in Kansas, Mississippi, Wyoming, Iowa, Kentucky, Illinois, Texas, New Mexico and Piedras Negras, Mexico.

Colowyo Coal Company Operations Manager John Harmon said a layoff is always possible, but Colowyo has no immediate plans to reduce its workforce.

ColoWyo is suffering from the same problem as Twentymile in that coal sales are down about .3 million tons from the 5.5 million tons estimated to be sold this year. The price of coal itself is down, too, Harmon said.

The shortfall in sales comes as no surprise to coal company officials.

"This time of year is always slow," Harmon said. "We have really seen a softening of Colorado prices."

The average spot price of coal is down from about $12 per ton to $11.50 per ton.

"There is plenty of Colorado coal on the market," Harmon said.

The drop in prices and need for coal has not impacted Northwest Colorado miners there have been no massive coal mine layoffs so far this year.

ColoWyo is a Northwest Colorado coal mine located in Moffat County.

Colowyo simultaneously mines eight coal seams in multiple pits, combining draglines with trucks and shovels.

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