Top coal companies begin laying off workers in Wyoming

Top coal companies begin laying off workers in Wyoming
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Two of the country’s biggest coal companies have begun laying off workers at their Western coal mines, a region that so far has seen fewer industry job losses than Appalachia.

Peabody Energy Corp. is cutting 235 jobs at its mine near Gillette, Wyo., or about 15 percent of its workforce, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. Arch Coal Inc. is cutting a similar number of jobs at one of its mines in the state. 

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The mines in question, the Star-Tribune reports, are considered among the largest and most cost-effective mines in the country, producing around 100 million tons of coal annually between them. 

Mines in Wyoming and western states haven’t seen the massive layoffs that are hitting their counterparts in Appalachia. But the energy industry and lawmakers have warned Obama administration policy changes — including a pause in a federal coal leasing program — will impact employment and production in the region. 

Regardless, Arch and Peabody said the layoffs were due to declining demand for their product. 

“While our asset position and contracting strategies give us relative strength, we are taking these actions to match production with customer demand," Kemal Williamson, Peabody president for the Americas, told the Star-Tribune.

The downturn in the coal market has hit several of the U.S.’s largest coal mining companies. Arch filed for bankruptcy in January, and Peabody hinted earlier this month that it may soon be forced to do the same. 

Peabody is the nation's largest coal company; Arch is second.