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Owner of Decker coal mine files for bankruptcy, reduces workforce
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Owner of Decker coal mine files for bankruptcy, reduces workforce

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Coal layoffs

A coal train idles in front of the Decker coal mine near the Wyoming-Montana border. The company petitioned for bankruptcy on Wednesday night.

The owner of the Decker coal mine filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday night and announced it would substantially reduce its workforce at its facility in Montana.

The Decker coal mine is located in Big Horn County just north of Wyoming’s border. Many of the employees live in Sheridan and commute the short distance to the coal field.

The operator, Lighthouse Resources Inc., filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

The company plans to continue reduced operations at the Decker mine. 

“In light of the challenging market conditions and other impacts on our business from COVID-19, we have been required to reduce costs and reorganize our business resulting in the reduction of our workforce in Montana," Everett King, Lighthouse’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. "We are deeply saddened by this impact on individuals, families, and communities. A court-supervised reorganization process is necessary for Lighthouse and its stakeholders and we have no alternative.” 

Decker Coal Co., furloughed workers in May and again in September. But a period of uncertainty has once again struck miners and their families.

The mine produced just over 640,000 tons of coal and employed 164 workers in the second quarter of this year, according to U.S. Mining Safety and Health Administration data.

The recent wave of layoffs and furloughs come on the heels of mass layoffs taking place across the Powder River Basin since the pandemic seized the country.

Over 500 coal miners have been laid off in the basin since the pandemic reached Wyoming and Montana. In addition, at least 300 coal miners have experienced furloughs. Rail company BNSF laid off 130 workers this year due to the decline in coal, and several workers at the state’s trona mines have also been furloughed.

Lighthouse Resources holds a joint venture interest in the Black Butte coal mine in Wyoming, but Black Butte has not filed for bankruptcy and the facility will continue its operations uninterrupted.

The bankruptcy also envelops the Millennium Bulk Terminals in Washington. Operations will continue at the facility, but will be reduced in scale.

 

Photos: A look at coal country through the photos of a railroad engineer

Follow the latest on Wyoming's energy industry and the environment at @camillereports

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