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Coal furloughs could mean trouble for region's economy

By: Whitney Burks Email
By: Whitney Burks Email

PIKE COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - Hundreds of miners are without jobs, and the layoffs could affect many more than that.

525 miners in Eastern Kentucky are now wondering what is next.

"Right now additional layoffs would come at a very bad time. We've seen sort of a plateau of the layoffs. We've been fortunate with that in our first and second quarter, but more layoffs only bring more bad news for our industry," said Bill Bissett, President of the Kentucky Coal Association.

The bad news came Monday when James River Coal idled productions at its McCoy Elkhorn, Bledsoe, and Long Branch mines blaming weakness in domestic and international coal markets.

"Seems like the whole country is kind of steering away from the coal business. Of course this whole Eastern Kentucky area is dependent on the coal business," said Mike Litafik, owner of the L&M Mart in Kimper.

Many businesses in the Kimper area of Pike County near the McCoy Elkhorn mines say much of their business comes from coal mining families, so they say with hundreds of these miners out of work they are worried what it will mean for their future.

"A layoff of this magnitude affects every business in the area, and it's probably going to take a lot of money away from various businesses," said Litafik.

He says his business will probably see a 30% drop in gross sales.

"You're going to have to respond accordingly perhaps some layoffs of your own," said Litafik.

Meaning even more people could be out of work and continuing a cycle many Eastern Kentuckians say they are tired of dealing with.

A letter given to some of the laid off miners says they are allowed to keep their health benefits for three months and can use accumulated paid time off.

Company officials said in a statement they hope the furloughs are not permanent.


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