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Cloud Peak offers voluntary separation

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World Coal,

Powder River Basin (PRB) coal miner, Cloud Peak Energy, is offering a “voluntary separation benefit” to long-serving members of staff, a company spokesperson has confirmed to World Coal. The package has been offered to hourly employees 65 yrs of age or anyone 55 yrs of age with a minimum of 10 yrs service.

The move is part of “our ongoing efforts to manage our workforce as production rates have declined from previous years,” Rick Curtsinger, Director of Public Affairs at Cloud Peak told World Coal in a emailed statement. The company did not say how many workers were eligible for the scheme.

The US coal industry is facing significant headwinds as demand has slumped this year on the back of low gas prices, warm winter weather and high stockpiles at utilities. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), coal production was 43.4% lower for the week ending 9 April than the comparable week in 2015.

Year-to-date, US coal production is almost a third down on production in 2015.

The slump has seen Cloud Peak Energy’s competitors in the Powder River Basin – Peabody Energy and Arch Coal – announce layoffs. At the end of March, Peabody said it would lay off 235 from its North Antelope Rochelle mine, while Arch Coal reduced its workforce at its Black Thunder mine by about 15%. Both companies are currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

Cloud Peak Energy – which avoided the debt-funded acquisitions binge during the boom years that has been the downfall of the top three US coal companies – “remains well positioned to weather this current period of oversupply and has been reducing production in response to decreased demand, while also implementing cost-saving measures, including increased in-house maintenance work, across the company,” Curtsinger continued.

The company would continue to “evaluate the most efficient way to implement production adjustments and minimize any impact on employees,” Curtsinger concluded.

Last year, the company announced that it has renegotiated its transportation agreements with rail operator, BNSF, and Candian port, Westshore Terminals, to eliminate volume obligations for the period 2016 – 2018.

Cloud Peak Energy owns three opencast mines in the Power River Basin: the Antelope and Cordero Rojo mines in Wyoming and Spring Creek mine in Montana. It lost US$204.9 million in 2015 with coal shipments falling by over 10 million t to 75.1 million t.

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