HAZARD — Officials with TECO Coal Corporation on Friday announced the layoffs of around 90 people from several different mines across the region. Perry County Coal, a subsidiary of TECO, will be losing around six employees from support and administrative staff, but no coal miners.
Back at the first of the year TECO announced the company would layoff 13 percent of their workforce at Perry County Coal due to the economic downturn in the coal industry. This translated to around 85 people, most of whom were coal miners.
Paul Matney, personnel director for TECO, said that while around two-thirds of the 90 people affected in the current round of layoffs work in the area of coal production, most of those will be coming from the Clintwood Elkhorn Mining Company in Pike County.
Matney said the company is remaining hopeful that the future of coal could mean these jobs will be coming back. They have very closely watched the markets and adjusted their production, and thus their workforce, so they could avoid having one major layoff or shutting down a mine.
“We are very hopeful that the market would recover sometime in 2013,” said Matney. “Therefore, those facilities would not be permanently closed and they would be there. There wouldn’t be a rush to be back online and to call people back.”
All of the company’s mines will remain open at this time, though Matney noted with a smaller workforce and lower production numbers.
Like many others in the coal industry, Matney said they see a bright future in shipping coal overseas to newly industrialized nations looking to quickly and affordably supply an emerging power grid. Matney said that while most of their current production does stay in the United States, they do have a large amount being shipped for foreign clients.
“For several years we have had international customers,” said Matney. “Most of our thermal coal has been sold within the United States, but we also sell a lot of specialty and metallurgical coal. A portion of that is sold domestically, but a portion of that is sold overseas already.”
While this could mean better news for the coal production across the Appalachian region in the long run, it could be some time before the gains are seen. In the meantime, coal companies continue to cut production to meet market needs, which in turn means cutting employees, something Matney said it is never easy.
“When you work with employees they become a part of your family,” he said. “You can’t work with someone for several years and not be bothered when you have to reduce a position.”
Those affected by the current round of layoffs were notified on Thursday and Friday morning.