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Decker Coal Mine Furloughs Over Half Its Employees

In the past decade, the Decker Coal Mine sent its coal to several locations around the country. Since 2015, though, it's primary customer has been a Minnesota coal-fired power plant
U.S. Energy Information Administration

The past few months, COVID-19 has taken its toll on employment in the Powder River Basin. Weak market conditions have struck again with a new round of furloughs at the Decker Coal Mine just north of the Wyoming border in Montana.

Friday, May 8, Decker Coal Company furloughed 98 workers until May 26, pointing to impacts from COVID-19. That's a nearly 60 percent decrease in the mine's workforce, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. Many Wyoming residents travel daily to work at the mine.

In a statement, the Decker Coal Company said there are no health-related issues at the mine and hope workers can return at the end of the month.

"We are sorry for our dedicated workers, their families and the community who are directly affected. We look forward to resuming contracted deliveries as soon as possible," said Leonard Wolff, General Manager at Decker Coal Company.

The Powder River Basin has previously seen a string of lay-offs at coal mines. With action from Peabody, NTEC, and Kiewit, mine lay-offs sit at about 420 workers. Last week, the railroad operator BNSF Railway announced 130 layoffs at two Wyoming facilities connected to a decline in coal demand.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Cooper McKim, at cmckim5@uwyo.edu.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.

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