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TECO coal announces layoff of 90 employees

TECO Coal Corporation announced Friday it would be laying off 90 employees from mines across the region in response to tough market conditions for the sale of coal.

Officials say there will be no mine or coal preparation facility shutdowns as a result of the layoffs, but that production will be reduced.

"We are hopeful that this is temporary and that some time in 2013 the coal markets will recover," said Paul Matney, Director of Human Resources for the Teco Coal Corporation.

Matney said the main factor putting pressure on coal producers is competition from natural gas producers and the weakened market for metalurgic coal because of reduced demand for steel. But he noted that government regulations regarding power plants and the inability to obtain new surface mining permits have also played a role.

According to a third quarter earnings report issued by TECO Energy Nov. 1, TECO Coal had a net income of $17.4 million, up from the same quarter in 2011 where it earned $14.1 million. Earnings for the year are also beating 2011 numbers as well — $39.4 million this year as opposed to $38.1 million through three quarters of 2011.

Matney notes that while the company has made more money in 2012, less coal has actually been sold, albeit at a higher price. The company has also benefitted from cost cutting measures that did not include layoffs, like reductions in overtime.

Two thirds of the people affected by the layoff are in coal production. Most of the lost jobs will happen at the Clintwood Elkhorn Mining Company in Pike County.

The other third of those losing their jobs will be support staff. A "small handful" affected will come from TECO Coal's corporate office in Corbin.

All the employees affected by the decision were notified as of Friday morning.

"It is very difficult because when you work with someobody for 10, 15 or 20 years, they become your family," Matney said. "These decisions affect not only the workers but their families as well. It is not something we relish having to do, but as a company if we don't do that, then at some point later ... the cuts would have to be much deeper."


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