Up to 700 jobless as Patriot Coal idles mines in western Kentucky

Up to 700 jobless as Patriot Coal idle mines in western Kentucky

Coal trains lead up to the Patriot Coal site in Kanawha County, West Virginia.

U.S. miner Patriot Coal, the second largest producer east of the Mississippi River, has decided to suspend indefinitely all operations at its mines in western Kentucky and weigh the future of the facilities while it continues a review of strategic options.

The Highland Mine near Henderson and the Dodge Hill Mining Complex near Sturgis are ceasing coal production effective Monday, the company said in a Sunday statement.

Earlier this month workers at those facilities were told the St. Louis-based company might make “substantial” job cuts. The Kentucky operations employ about 670 people and last year produced 3.9 million tons of thermal coal, which is used to generate electricity.

The Heritage preparation plant and barge-loading terminal on the Ohio River are slated to continue processing and shipping coal from on-site stockpiles, Patriot added.

The coal miner, which emerged from bankruptcy only a year ago, has 10 active mining operations in Appalachia and the Illinois Basin. It ships the fossil fuel both domestically and internationally to electricity generators, industries and metallurgical coal customers with approximately 1.8 billion tons in reserves.