Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

Peabody lays off 50 temporary workers

GILLETTE — Peabody Energy Corp. has laid off about 50 workers from its flagship North Antelope Rochelle coal mine in southern Campbell County.

The move impacts temporary workers at the world’s most productive open-pit coal mine and represents a reduction in workforce of 4% from the 1,242 employed at the mine at the end of 2019, according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Peabody confirmed the layoffs in a statement to the News Record on Thursday afternoon, saying the layoffs represent an adjustment to lower Powder River Basin coal production.

“We routinely match staffing levels with production needs, and this action is consistent with that approach,” Peabody spokeswoman Charlene Murdock said in the statement.

The layoffs also come on the heels of a poor 2019 fourth-quarter and year-end report and a drop of the company’s stock by about 84% from a year ago. Peabody stock closed at $31.38 a share on March 5, 2019, and closed Thursday at $4.91.

Overall, Peabody reported employment of 1,562 at its three PRB coal mines at the end of last year. Along with NARM, the company has 191 people working at the Caballo mine and 129 at Rawhide.

Peabody hired about 30 former Blackjewel LLC coal miners who were locked out of their jobs at the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines this past summer.

Thursday’s layoffs represent an overall reduction of 3% for the PRB mines and ends a three-year period of steady employment numbers for the company.

Overall since 2015, employment at Peabody’s Powder River Basin mines is down 11.3%.

After laying off 235 of its 1,760 workers in 2016 as a prelude to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, Peabody had rebounded to 1,631 in 2017, and has held at around 1,560 for the past two years despite continuing drops in production.

Peabody’s three PRB mines produced 107.9 million tons of coal last year, a 9.4% drop from the 119.1 million tons mined in 2018. Since 2015, production was down 28 million tons, or nearly 21%.

At NARM, where the 50 temporary workers were laid off, production was down 13 million tons last year, a little more than 13%.