PRESTONSBURG — Eastern Kentucky took another hit to the economy Monday, when James River Coal Company announced that it has idled coal production at several locations in Central Appalachia.
According to officials with JRCC, the idled production is due to continued weakness in the domestic and international coal markets. The result of this halt in production is that approximately 525 full-time employees are being furloughed, with no anticipated restart date. The layoffs amount to 25 percent of JRCC’s workforce.
Officials said Monday that 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.
Judge-Executive R.D. “Doc” Marshall said Tuesday that the layoffs further hamper Floyd County’s economic stability.
“This certainly puts a damper on our local economy,” said Marshall. “These are good paying jobs, and a lot of these people have been long-term workers for this company. These are people that are approaching past middle age or more, and it’s very difficult for them to find other jobs.”
Marshall says it is always disheartening when he hears of more layoffs, because of the “catastrophic effect” it has all across the county. The current economic climate and reduction of coal jobs, and conversely, the reduction of coal severance money is devastating.
“We’ve been told that the next two to three years is going to be, as the old timers say, a gut check,” Marshall said in regard to coal severance money. “How do we get along as far as being able to supply these programs and things that rely on coal severance money? When that dries up completely, we’ve got nowhere to turn to.”
James River Coal Company is one of the leading coal producers in Central Appalachia and the Illinois Basin. The company sells metallurgical, bituminous steam and industrial-grade coal to electric utility companies and industrial customers both domestically and internationally.
The company’s operations are managed through eight operating subsidiaries located throughout Eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia and southern Indiana. Additional information about James River Coal can be found at its web site www.jamesrivercoal.com