Officials with James River Coal Company have confirmed to Mountain News they have furloughed 525 coal miners at three mines across our region.
Officials with the Richmond, Virginia based company said Monday night the layoffs occurred at operations at the McCoy Elkhorn complex in Pike and Floyd counties, the Bledsoe complex in Leslie and Harlan counties and the Long Branch Surface mine in London.
You can find the release from the company about the furloughs here:
Hundreds of miners throughout the region could be without jobs.
Word is spreading that one coal company laid off or furloughed hundreds of miners.
However, company officials will not confirm any of it.
James River Coal Company runs several mines in Eastern Kentucky with the latest layoffs appearing to be centered around Pike, Harlan and Leslie Counties, potentially more than 500 jobs in Pike County alone.
At a time when the Eastern Kentucky coal industry has seen a steady decline in jobs officials say losing that many jobs at these mines would devastate the area.
"It's important for people to remember for everyone one direct lob lost we lose at least three other jobs that are dependent on that coal miner for their livelihood, so this is a very very serious economic time for Eastern Kentucky. There's really nowhere else in the country that has felt the kind of loss in production and employment like we've seen in Eastern Kentucky," said Bill Bissett, President of the Kentucky Coal Association.
Bissett says there are many reasons for the industry's issues, including competitive prices of natural gas and extensive regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency.
As of right now there is no word on specific numbers or if the layoffs will be permanent.
Mountain News did receive a copy of a letter that was given to a furloughed miner at a Bledsoe mine. The letter states that all the furloughed miners will keep their benefits for up to three months.
Mountain News tried several times today to contact officials at James River Coal. Our calls were not returned.