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Workers off the job future of top US coal region



GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) – Warehouse technician Melissa Worden (1965)

Then mine owner Blackjewel LLC filed for Chapter 1

1 bankruptcy protection on July 1. The consensus was: In 30 days, we

What happened instead of shaking the top coal-producing region in the United States , Blackjewel furloughed most of its Wyoming employees and shut down Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines, which first exploded in the 1970s due to coal mining in the Powder River Basin.

Wyoming and southeastern it's a big hit to the region straddling northeastern Montana, where coal has quietly supported the economies of both states for decades and fuels a shrinking number of power plants in 28 states.

Negotiations that could reopen the two Wyoming mines under new ownership are more than two months later. Some 600 employees remain off the job. And doubts are growing about the long-term viability of the region's coal mines.

"I do not think we'll ever that naive again," said Worden, 44.

Blackjewel, based in Milton, West Virginia, said its Wyoming employees this week that the mines might be running again soon, and they may have their jobs back.

Worried they felt little reassurance. Powder River Basin mines, which produce cleaner-burning coal less expensively than mines in other parts of the U.S. Rob Godby, director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming.

"The irony here – and it's really a cruel irony – it's all focused on getting back to work." But really the solution to a healthy industry is some mines close, "Godby said.

For now, little change in Gillette, a city of 30,000 at the heart of the basin of rolling grasslands where tattoo shops are abundant and big, late-model pickup trucks.

This year, however, has been particularly tumultuous. Three of the Powder River Basin's nine producers – Westmoreland Coal, Cloud Peak Energy and Blackjewel – have filed for bankruptcy since March. Two others, Arch Coal and Peabody, say they want merge assets in the region.

Donor Trump's efforts to prop up the coal industry.

Yesterday, about half of US electricity came from coal-fired power. The market's changed, "Wallet said." Belle Ayr mine's coal. "

" The market's changed, "Wallet said.

Wallet, 40, who followed his father into the mine in 2008, said the recent closures and loss of his $ 80,000-a-year job surprised him.

Blackjewel said Thursday that he was doing his job at a restaurant in Gillette.

"This is a fast-moving and sometimes unpredictable process, and accordingly, we do not have any questions at all."

The ports are looking for a job and lobbying Wyoming lawmakers to fight harder to force Washington state to approve a port facility expansion that would allow more coal exports to Asia.

"The ports are going to be a big deal, "Wallet said.

But Godby said the amount of coal that the export terminal could handle was only a small fraction of the amount that production has declined.

Powder River Basin mines employ about 5,000 miners – 20 percent less than eight years ago.

Locals cheered when trump lifted a federal moratorium on coal leases, but Worden and Wallet disagree about changing environmental regulations will do much good.

"It needs to be a group effort, not green is on one side and black is on the other," Worden said.

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