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Idle mines lead to more layoffs by Murray

Bob Murray
Bob Murray

Murray Energy announced another round of mine layoffs Wednesday following a meeting mine owner Bob Murray had Tuesday with workers at his West Ridge mine.

A company statement does not say how many workers are affected. The company's last round of layoffs idled 170 miners in Carbon and Emery counties Aug. 27, when Murray Energy shut down its Tower Mine north of Price following the fatal tragedies at its Crandall Canyon mine.

"Because of the need to ensure that the mine is safe, and due to continued idling of Tower and the closure of the Crandall Canyon mines, Murray Energy regrets that additional cuts in employment have been implemented," the company statement says.

Huntington City Councilwoman Julie Jones said Bob Murray met with miners at his West Ridge mine Tuesday morning. "He said that because of political issues there could be a layoff," Jones said. She said she had not seen Murray Energy's statement, but the word among miners later Wednesday was that the layoff might not materialize.

Murray Energy also operates mines in Ohio and Illinois. When announcing the closure of the Tower Mine in August, Bob Murray said any of the laid-off Utah miners working for him could work at his mines in the Midwest.

"Murray Energy has offered full employment at other mines to all employees impacted by the situations at the Tower and Crandall mines. These employees receive their salary, as well as housing expenses and transportation costs to visit their families," the company statement says. To date, 11 Utah miners have taken the offer and are working at Murray's mines in the Midwest.

Murray Energy has said nothing about how long it expects Tower Mine to remain idle.

"Murray Energy voluntarily idled Tower Mine on Aug. 27 to modify the long-wall mining equipment and conduct engineering and ground-control studies. Murray Energy is working with (the Mine Safety and Health Administration) on a safe roof control plan. The mine will reopen after the plan is approved and the long-wall equipment is modified. The health and safety of our employees is Murray Energy's number one priority, and Murray Energy remains committed to keeping employees, community members and local leaders informed about the progress at the Tower Mine," the statement says.

The MSHA office in Price referred calls about its participation in safety work at Tower to its Salt Lake office, which had already switched off its phones as of 4 p.m. Wednesday. MSHA regional officials in Denver were not available for comment Wednesday afternoon.

"Murray Energy hopes that this will be a temporary situation and that the company will be able to rehire all employees at some time in the future," the company said.

Tower Mine is located about 10 miles north of Price, where Mayor Joe Piccolo said Wednesday he had not heard news of the latest round of layoffs.

"I haven't heard anything from Murray since probably Aug. 26," he said. "I hope it's not true," he said of the latest layoff news. "This community doesn't need more news like this."

Piccolo said he was aware most of the miners previously idled chose to find other work near home rather than leave their families. "There are other companies that are trying to pick up the slack, but Murray has a big portion of the mining base here."