Trapper Mine adjusts to layoffs following decrease in coal production requirement
Editor’s Note: The Craig Press followed up with Trapper Mine President Michael Morriss Monday afternoon following a misquote in the Jan. 6 story regarding overtime.
One week ago Monday, Trapper Mine President Michael Morriss had to do what no employer wants to do. Morriss, in a decision that impacted the community, had to lay off 22 employees from Trapper Mine due to a significant decrease in production.
According to Morriss, 18 of the 22 employees were from the production side of things at Trapper Mine, while the other four employees laid off were from the maintenance department.
The decision was not a light one for Morriss, who knows all too well the feeling of being laid off.
“It was a really tough day,” Morriss said. “We’re one big family up here, so to have to do that was really tough. It’s a close-knit group.”
The decision to lay off 22 employees was built around a significant drop in production, as Trapper Mine saw its production request drop from 2.1 million tons of coal for roughly the last four years, down to 1.5 million tons of coal, which Morriss expects to stay the same for the next five years.
“We’ve been communicating the decrease in production for at least 18 months now,” Morriss said. “Eighteen months ago I wasn’t talking layoffs, but that started to become obvious in the middle of 2020.”
The coal mine, a supplier to the nearby Craig Station power generating plant, is expected to shut down as a result of the plant’s planned closure in the coming decade. The mine’s closure is expected somewhere between 2026 and 2030, which was announced in mid-January.
Trapper, a surface mine, was opened to supply units 1 and 2 at Craig Station, and produced about 2 million tons of coal in 2019. Both the mine and those units are owned by multiple utilities.
In 2020, Trapper Mine made overtime mandatory for workers to meet the mine’s production contract. The mandatory overtime last year was not something that Trapper Mine historically has done.
With the expectation of 1.5 million tons of coal requested in production for 2021 through 2025, Morriss is not expecting any additional layoffs over the next five years.
At the end of 2025 though, the contract runs out and Unit 1 at Craig Station is set to close. That would cut the need in half from Trapper Mine.
A week removed from the difficult decision, Morriss says that the company is currently working on shifting things around through its “bump” system, allowing employees with seniority to move to different departments with different pay scales, should they choose to.
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