Mine in Black Mesa will close

"This is pretty black and white. There are going to be layoffs," Supervisor Percy Deal told the Navajo County Board of Supervisors Oct. 17 regarding a letter he received from Peabody Western Coal Company.

According to the letter, all employees of the Black Mesa Mine, both union and non-union, will be laid off on Dec. 16. The letter identifies 127 employees Peabody anticipates will be included in the layoffs.

The letter states, "As you are aware, the operations of Peabody Western Coal Company's Black Mesa Mine are significantly impacted by the anticipated suspension of the Mojave Generating Station as of Dec. 31.

"The owners of the Mojave Generating Station are in ongoing discussions to reopen the Mojave Generating Station as early as Jan. 1, 2010, which we expect would trigger restarting the Black Mesa Mine on or before that date.

"This letter hereby serves as notice that Peabody Western Coal Company anticipates commencing the temporary suspension of the Black Mesa Mine and certain operations that support the Black Mesa Mine, located at Navajo Route 41, as of Dec. 16, 2005. Peabody Western Coal Company hereby notifies you that the suspension will result in job losses for employees."

Deal noted that the loss of 127 jobs is a major blow to the area, and will also have an impact on surrounding areas and businesses. He asked Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Director Gail Sadler whether the county will be providing any assistance services to the displaced workers.

Sadler explained that the Navajo Nation has a WIA program for workers who live on the reservation, and Navajo County WIA will be assisting workers who live off of the reservation. She noted that she recently attended a rapid response meeting with Navajo Nation WIA regarding the anticipated layoffs. Sadler learned that all of the workers at the mine live on the reservation and will be served by Navajo Nation WIA. However, workers in positions that support the mining operation are also likely to become unemployed following the layoffs, and approximately 15 percent of those workers do not live on the reservation.

According to Sadler, a statewide response is already being organized to address the situation, and she is prepared to begin providing services to displaced workers immediately.

"We will all be working closely with Peabody," she said. "There will be no intervention, there will be layoffs. Those workers will be eligible for dislocated worker services."

Deal noted that Peabody has been seeking new customers for coal from the Black Mesa Mine, but has not yet been successful. He also noted that Peabody's other mine on the Navajo Nation, the Kayenta mine, will continue to operate.

A town hall meeting is scheduled at 3 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 24, in Kayenta to provide an update on the layoff and mining situation. A tour of Peabody's mining facilities will also be included. Deal encouraged all members of the board to attend the meeting.

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