Approximately 150 workers at Oxbow Mining LLC have been laid off. They were notified on Tuesday, Oct. 1.
This layoff goes directly back to the carbon monoxide levels which caused a shutdown of longwall operations in Elk Creek Mine. That shutdown affected approximately 240 miners at that time. About 90 employees would later be brought back.
The recent attempt to re-open that section of the Elk Creek Mine again was prevented by the carbon monoxide created by the heating of the coal and spontaneous combustion. The area was isolated for 200 days, and the spontaneous combustion rekindled after 12 days of ventilation.
Mike Ludlow, executive vice president, said he can think of only one person laid off who lives outside of Delta County. The employees were given an undisclosed severance package. Oxbow is retaining an employment of 135 miners, clerical staff and salaried staff. In 2012 they had 340 employees.
Whether any of those employees could return to Oxbow doesn't sound hopeful. "It certainly depends on marketing of coal in the future," Ludlow said. "Our plan right now is to develop the mine for future longwall mining and to procure a new longwall mining system for the mine. And with that we would have to build our employment back up.
"The area we are developing right now is a new area. It's a lease we procured a little over a year ago. It's what we call our "East Lease" so it is a new lease area to us in a different mining district separated from the current trouble."
According to Ludlow, for the foreseeable future they probably cannot return to the former longwall mining area.
Oxbow has three continuous miner units. The current production schedule is running just one unit.
Last year, Oxbow produced about 3 million tons of coal. "It's certainly looking at being less than that, but again it will be determined on market conditions. It would be in the neighborhood of 300,000 to 500,000 tons of only continuous miner coal," Ludlow said. "We are going to actively pursue another longwall. It's too soon to say if we would have any longwall production next year or not."
Amid all this troubling news is one bright spot for Oxbow. It has been confirmed that there is minable coal at Oak Mesa. Oxbow has drilled 22 holes for core samples.
"We are still putting together all of the data we have collected. We have applied with the BLM to expand that drilling area further to the north to confirm additional potential reserves," Ludlow said.
The holes on Oak Mesa were reclaimed after drilling them. All drilling was completed in July. Ludlow was uncertain if there remain a few that still need to be reclaimed.
There is no time frame to add to the current staff of two on the Oak Mesa project.
Asked if Oxbow is looking beyond the North Fork Valley for new mining opportunities, Ludlow responded, "We are looking at growing the business. Any expansion opportunities are kept very, very confidential."
Ludlow clarified that the Oct. 1 layoff is the first one for the year. In January, Oxbow "did not have a full work schedule" for the affected 240 miners and staff. "We kept them on as employees and maintained all their benefits during our difficulties until we had our layoff on Oct. 1."
He continued, "This is a very unfortunate business circumstance that affected a lot of outstanding employees. Our employees have been very dedicated to what they are doing, and they are very good at what they do. So it's been a very painful process for everybody."
Since Elk Creek Mine is the only coal mine that Oxbow owns, they have not placed any of those laid off at other Oxbow operations.
Some former employees have been able to find employment with other mines, locally and outside of the valley.blog comments powered by Disqus