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Wyoming's Only Underground Coal Mine Is Preparing To Close

The Jim Bridger Coal Plant, which is fed in part by the underground coal mine that is set to close.
WildEarth Guardians
The Jim Bridger Coal Plant, which is fed in part by the underground coal mine that is set to close.

The Bridger Coal Company is expecting to permanently shut the doors of its underground mining operation near Rock Springs as soon as Nov. 19, 2021. The closure plan has been in place since 2016.

Close to 100 employees will be affected by the closure, according to aletter sent by Bridger Coal Company to Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo on Sept. 3, as required by federal law.

Bridger Coal underground and surface mines are both owned by PacifiCorp, a utility serving multiple western states including Wyoming. Some of the affected employees will move to the nearby Bridger Coal surface mine which has been making room for the underground workers for years. Tiffany Erickson, a spokeswoman for Rocky Mountain Power, a subsidiary of PacifiCorp, said 53 underground mine employees have already transferred to the surface mine since 2017.

Bridger Coal also sponsored a job fair on September 16-17 inviting both local and out-of-state competitors to reach out to the underground workforce.

The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local S1978 represents many of the workers, though they declined to comment on the mine's closure.

Employment has declined at the underground mine by more than 50 percent since 2015, according to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data. Production has also declined significantly.

PacifiCorp has made it clear through recent integrated resource plans that it will move away from coal-fired power and towards renewables.

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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