Some workers at Peabody Energy’s Caballo and Rawhide mines in the Powder River Basin became the latest casualties of an ongoing slump in coal prices and production.
Peabody, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, confirmed the layoffs Thursday afternoon in a statement.
“In response to market conditions and customer needs, Peabody has implemented a small number of job reductions at its Caballo and Rawhide mines,” according to the statement. “We regret the effect of these actions on employees and their families, and the company is taking steps to ease the transition through severance and outplacement support for those impacted.”
Peabody spokeswoman Beth Sutton, based at the company’s St. Louis, Missouri, headquarters, declined to confirm just how many employees were let go and if other layoffs could be coming. She referred all other questions to the two-sentence statement.
Along with the Caballo and Rawhide mines, Peabody also operates the North Antelope Rochelle mine south of Gillette. North Antelope is the largest and most productive mine in the United States, producing more than 109 million tons of coal in 2015. There was no indication by the company that layoffs happened or are planned for the North Antelope Rochelle mine.
Any reduction in employment and production at the Caballo mine continues a trend going back to 2008, when the mine hit a high in both with 31.2 tons of coal produced by 432 employees, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. In 2015, production had dropped to 11.4 million tons and employment to 137, an eight-year decline of 63.4 percent and 67.5 percent, respectively.
Production and employment at the Rawhide mine has been more consistent since 2008, according to MSHA statistics. In 2015, Rawhide produced 15.1 million tons of coal and employed 200 full-time equivalent positions. Compared to the 18.4 million tons mined and 212 employees in 2008, that’s a dip of about 18 percent in production and 5.6 percent of the workforce.
Thursday’s move by Peabody Energy comes less than a week after another round of layoffs at a Powder River Basin coal mine.
The Buckskin mine, owned by Kiewit Mining Group Inc., laid off 38 employees March 4, or about 16 percent of its workforce.
“This was a very difficult decision and does not reflect the performance or quality of our employees at Buckskin,” the company said in a statement announcing the layoffs.
Like at the Peabody mines, Buckskin has been struggling with low coal prices and reduced production.
In 2015, Buckskin mined 13.6 million tons of coal, nearly 11 percent less than the 15.3 million tons produced in 2014, the MSHA reports.
The move was “driven by the realities of the marketplace,” according to the company statement.
Anadarko to cut 1,000 jobs
Another of Wyoming’s large energy producers, Anadarko Petroleum, also announced Thursday that it’s laying off 1,000 employees across the company. That represents about 17 percent of its overall workforce of 5,800.
How many of those layoffs will come in its Wyoming operations is not clear.
Robin Olsen, a spokeswoman for Anadarko’s Rockies Division based in Denver, said the layoffs haven’t been determined for particular areas yet.
“We’ve not broken out reductions specifically for Wyoming, though it will continue to be an important state for us with our significant minerals-interest ownership throughout the Land Grant and assets in the Powder River and Green River basins,” according to a prepared statement from the company announcing the layoffs.
The announcement comes on the heels of a 2015 fourth quarter report that shows Anadarko lost about $6.5 billion last year. Reacting to that, the company has announced it plans to cut costs companywide by 50 percent in 2016. It also will sell $1.3 billion in assets and has cut its dividend by 81 percent.
Anadarko’s most recent move prior to Thursday’s announced layoffs was stating it plans to slash its onshore rigs by 80 percent and also is laying off 95 percent of its contractors.
The company owns extensive oil and natural gas production operations in what it calls its Rockies Region, which includes Wyoming, Colorado and Utah.
In Wyoming, the company has 6,003 oil and natural gas wells as of December 2015, according to the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Of those, 1,180 are producing wells and another 270 are idle.
In the Powder River Basin, the company controls about 325,000 acres of mineral rights. Anadarko was the basin’s ninth leading oil producer in 2015 at 2.2 million barrels.