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Arch Coal subsidiary lay off workers at Colorado's West Elk mine

Lagging bituminous coal sales from the West Elk mine in Colorado has forced an Arch Coal subsidiary to lay off 80 workers, the company said Monday.

Arch Coal subsidiary Mountain Coal had announced the cuts amid “continuing challenges in domestic and international thermal coal markets,” Saint Louis-based spokeswoman Logan Bonacorsi said.

“Up to this point, the operation has managed the current market downturn through cost-reduction initiatives, efficiency improvements, and natural attrition,” Bonacorsi said. “However, lack of incremental coal demand has forced us to take further action to better align production and staffing levels with customer needs, and to ensure West Elk remains competitive long-term.”

Colorado’s largest mine by production, West Elk produced only 521,527 st of bituminous coal in Q1 2016, down 55.4% from the same quarter in 2015, according to US Mine Safety & Health Administration data.

Its mine employee count dropped to 233 from 300 employees over that same period.

The mine, located in Somerset, Colorado, has seen dwindling contracts from customers, and delivered only 258,587 st of bituminous coal in the first three months of the year, according to US Energy Information Administration data.

By comparison, the mine had delivered 364,430 st of coal in the first three months of 2015 and 938,232 st of coal during the same period in 2014, according to the EIA.