Contract disputes between Energy West Mining Company and the United Mine Workers of America escalated Friday. The mining company who owns Deer Creek Mine in Huntington announced the possibility of selling the coal facility if an agreement cannot be reached with UMWA within 60 days. Energy West also vowed to terminate negotiations and their contract with the union within the deadline as well.
Negotiations between the union and the mining company have centered around benefits, primarily pension and healthcare plans as well as safety provisions. With neither party budging, it appears that the fate of Deer Creek Mine is not looking good.
The workforce has dropped significantly during the past several months. Estimates show that nearly 100 miners have left Deer Creek since contract disputes began. Approximately 230 workers are currently employed at the Huntington mine.
Energy West Mining spokesperson Maria O’Mara made clear that Friday’s announcement is not uncommon during a lengthy negotiation process. “Friday the company issued a 60-day notice of termination of its contract with the union. Such a notice is not uncommon for either party to file during the collective bargaining process,” explained O’Mara. “It establishes a concrete time frame within which to resolve issues.”
O’Mara went on to explain that even if a resolve is not reached by the 60 day time frame, the mine will not just simply shut down. “There are a lot of potential outcomes that may be reached,” the spokesperson assured. “Bargaining may continue after the 60 day period. The mine will not simply be sold at the end of this period, nor will negotiations end.”
According to O’Mara, Energy West has been in negotiations with the United Mine Workers of America since November 5, 2012. “The company has had a strong history of successfully bargaining with the union in the past, but the last ten months of discussion have produced limited progress,” O’Mara explained.
“Since July, Energy West has been considering all available options, including the sale of Deer Creek mine or permanently contracting its operations to a third party,” the spokesperson stated. “No decision has been made and the company continues to assess all options.”
O’Mara ensures that contract termination will not impact power plant operations in Huntington. “Energy West Mining Company is a separate entity from PacifiCorp and Rocky Mountain Power,” she explained. “These are companies that are fully prepared to ensure safe, continued and reliable service to their customers.”
Check back to ETV 10 News for further information regarding the fate of Deer Creek Mine.