- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

PAONIA, Colo. (AP) - Colorado’s North Fork Valley is losing more coal jobs.

After losing its contract to sell coal to the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest public utility, the operator of the Bowie No. 2 mine near Paonia is eliminating 150 jobs. Bowie Resource Partners also cited the overall weakness in coal demand in making the announcement Wednesday.

The job losses come less than a year after Oxbow Mining suspended operations at its Elk Creek Mine after a fire blocked access to longwall mining machinery.

Paonia mayor Neal Schwieterman told the Daily Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1wkSJLY ) every resident knows at least one family affected by these two rounds of layoffs.

“If these things are going to happen, I wish they’d happen further apart,” he said. “…We’re just a little shell-shocked.”

About 200 miners will remain at the Bowie mine.

Bowie Resources Partners praised the Bowie coal miners for their commitment to hard work and safety offered to pay to relocate them to its other underground mines in Utah.

In addition to the possible loss of neighbors, the layoffs are expected to reduce sales tax and severance tax revenues in the area and could possibly lead to more changes in area schools. The Delta County School District cut 19 positions through attrition and cuts to its sports programs after enrollment dropped because of the Oxbow layoffs, superintendent Caryn Gibson said.

“It hurts our district and our families and we’re all connected,” she said.

One bright spot for the coal industry has been the hiring of 50 contract workers for Arch Coal’s West Elk Mine near Somerset. About 250 people applied for those jobs in June.

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Information from: The Daily Sentinel, https://www.gjsentinel.com

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