Twentymile Mine furloughs half its employees due to several factors including COVID-19

Twentymile Coal Mine off Routt County Road 27.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — More than half of the workforce at Twentymile Coal Co.’s Foidel Creek Mine have been or will be furloughed at different stages over a four-week period, according to Charlene Murdock, director of U.S. communications for Peabody Energy, which owns and operates the mine.

The mine, located on Routt County Road 27 in Oak Creek, continues to run with limited employees. Regular operations are expected to resume in June. Furloughed workers are receiving benefits but not pay. The mine employs about 140 people, according to Murdock.

“Our Twentymile Mine has made the difficult decision to furlough a segment of the workforce based on reduced customer demand driven by historically low natural gas prices, availability of subsidized renewable generation, coal plant retirements and the catastrophic and widespread disruption of COVID-19 impacting the economy,” Murdock said in an emailed statement.

“Across the U.S., coal demand has been challenged by historically low natural gas prices and high inventory levels and recently further pressured by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including weak total electric power sector consumption, depressed power prices and reduced industrial activity,” she added.

One employee, who requested their name not be used, began a four-week furlough May 11. Some employees are being furloughed for two weeks. The employee said they were advised that due to a “soft market” and reduced demand, the mine needed to either do another round of layoffs or put employees on furlough.

The global coal mining market is expected to decline from $816.5 billion in 2019 to $722.8 billion in 2020, according to the Coal Mining Market Global Report and a May 6 Businesswire article.

“The decline is mainly due to economic slowdown across countries owing to the COVID-19 outbreak and the measures to contain it,” the article stated.

Twentymile Mine has been seeing an ongoing decrease in employees and production for many years. As of December 2018, the mine employed 266 people, down from 451 in December 2012.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.

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