LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Arch Coal will lay off more than 500 miners in the struggling coalfields of eastern Kentucky, a coal industry executive said Thursday, in the latest setback for an industry increasingly being pushed aside as utilities switch to cleaner and cheaper alternatives.
Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, said he was informed of the layoffs by an Arch executive. Arch spokeswoman Kim Link said the company planned a late-afternoon announcement, but she would not comment further. The St. Louis-based company describes itself on its website as one of the world's top five coal producers.
In layoff notices sent to the state this week, Arch cited a "continuing decline in demand for steam coal in the central Appalachian market" for its decision to idle several Kentucky mines effective Aug. 20.
"We regret this action; however, it is a necessary step that we are forced to take in response to a difficult business environment," the company said in the notices dated Wednesday that were sent to the state's Office of Employment and Training.
The layoffs at the largest mining operations will occur in stages, the company said. Laid-off employees can apply for vacant positions in Arch, but there's no guarantee they'll be chosen.
"No 'bumping rights' exist at the mine, and these terminations are expected to be permanent," the company said in the notice.
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