Saturday, December 16, 2006

Safety Problems Cited In Mine Layoffs of More Than 1,000

Safety hazards, at least in part, were responsible for two recently announced major coal mine layoffs totaling more than 1,000 jobs, one in Alabama and one in Washington State.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Drummond Co. said Monday it would lay off 455 workers from Alabama's largest coal mine, which has been temporarily shut down since October because of continuing problems linked to an underground blast nearly 10 months ago.

Birmingham-based Drummond said it would retain only 81 of the 536 union members who work at the Shoal Creek mine, located in Western Jefferson County. The skeleton work force will maintain the mine, Drummond's last underground operation in the state...


...Phil Smith, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America, said the layoffs were apparently linked to the accident earlier this year.

"It's a sad day," he said. "We're told this may be something that goes on four to six months. We hope they can work through their problems and get the mine back open."...

Shoal Creek, which employed about 680 people earlier this year, was damaged by a partial roof collapse, explosion and fire on Feb. 24. No one was injured, but production had to be halted because of extensive damage that required repair.

Workers resumed mining in August on a limited basis, but two production units remained idle. The mine was slow to recover because of the extent of the damage and a shortage of equipment, mining division president Mike Tracy said in October...


The Seattle Times:

Few people knew the TransAlta coal mine outside Centralia was shutting before the gates actually closed Monday. But a lot of people saw it coming.

A cascade of forces helped make the closure virtually inevitable, from the age and geology of the mine to changes in state tax law, say mining and energy experts.
It boils down to this: It makes more economic sense to haul trainloads of coal from Wyoming and Montana to fuel Centralia's power plant than it does to dig it out of the plant's backyard....


Compare that with the coal seams in Centralia, one of them known as "The Big Dirty." They are fractured and undulating, close to the surface in places, but plunging deep elsewhere. Much of the coal was dirty and required cleaning. And the mine is 35 years old.

"We were moving more and more dirt and getting less and less coal," said Doug Jackson, president of TransAlta's U.S. operations....

On top of it all, huge sections of a main coal pit fell in last summer and again in early November, burying some of the coal and pushing costs to the breaking point, the company says....


A local blogger comments:

Yes this was a complete shock to everyone but a handful of people. It's kind of somber around town. My husband worked there but was on medical leave and will possibly be retrained. Just not for anything there. We are doing OK but were in the process of making some life changing decision anyway. We really feel for the other people that worked there. Many were totally unprepared and where do you find 600 new jobs in area this size? It sucks for Christmas. We have been through this before when we closed our business and we'll get along fine.

The blogger also quoted a November 28 story from the Centralia Chronicle, which can't easily be accessed online at the paper, but here are a few tidbits:

TransAlta shut down its coal mine northeast of Centralia Monday afternoon, laying off 600 workers, and striking a significant hit to Lewis County's economy....

Jackson cited an increase of $80 million in mining costs in the past year, including high diesel and steel expenses, at the Big Hanaford Valley facility.

He described two major landslides in the mine last year as the "straw that broke the camel's back."...

...Last month, the Mine Safety and Health Administration closed the mine temporarily until a corroded support structure was replaced on the preparation platform.

In August, a blade failed in a turbine at the TransAlta's Steam-Electric plant, shutting down power production of the 700-megawatt unit for 44 days...

2 Comments:

Blogger Davidb said...

I publish a new website which is an international mining jobs portal whereby one can submit a resume and it becomes searchable for employers around the world. Perhaps some of these retrenched people might be able to find work in the new year. The service is free and growing. go to www.staffmine.com/jobs

12:13 AM  
Blogger Davidb said...

I publish a new website which is an international mining jobs portal whereby one can submit a resume and it becomes searchable for employers around the world. Perhaps some of these retrenched people might be able to find work in the new year. The service is free and growing. go to www.staffmine.com/jobs

12:14 AM  

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