For a year-and-a-half, contract negotiations have been ongoing between Energy West Mining Corporation, a subsidiary of Rocky Mountain Power, and UMWA Local 1769 at Deer Creek Mine and Local 2176 workers at the prep plant.
Union spokesperson Bryan Lee reported that rumors of closure are swirling at the mine. He said that machinery is being moved off the premises and open mining positions are not being filled. He also said that they have been told that the mine will shut down in November if it is not sold.
Lee maintains that there are at least 100 positions open and ready to be filled. There are only about 150 miners left at Deer Creek. He also said that if nothing changes they will not have any longwall coal to mine after November.
“We are not developing anything at this time,” Lee added.
There does not appear to be a quick resolution to the stalemate. The union contends that safety issues and benefits are sticking points. Energy West spokesperson David Eskelson said that negotiations are ongoing.
Eskelson issued the following statements on behalf of Energy West regarding general status and potential for sale of the mine:
Energy West Mining Company has been in negotiations with the United Mine Workers of America since November 5, 2012. The parties are continuing to work towards resolution of outstanding issues. The company remains optimistic that an agreement can be achieved.
In July 2013, the company advised the union it has been considering all available options, including sale of the mine or permanently contracting its operations to a third party. No decision on any of those options has been made and the company continues to assess these potential outcomes. At present, there are several potential buyers of the mine, but the company does not plan on making any public announcement identifying them at this time. Mining operations are continuing safely and without disruption.
He also issued the following company response regarding the future of Deer Creek Mine:
Mining operations continue safely at Deer Creek, although the mine is approaching the end of recoverable coal reserves—anticipated in the next five-to-seven years. Mining conditions and natural employee retirements or employment moves are the main variables in the mine’s remaining active life.
Only time will tell on what the future holds for the last operating union mine. Rocky Mountain Power continues to report that both the Huntington and the Castle Dale power plants have a long and bright future in the area. Miners at Deer Creek Mine are not as confident in their long-term future.