- Associated Press - Saturday, January 23, 2016

BEULAH, N.D. (AP) - Dakota Westmoreland plans to lay off 95 workers, most of them miners, at its coal mine south of Beulah.

The company notified the city that the layoffs will begin in early March and conclude by the end of April. They come after the nearby Coyote Station power plant decided to leave Dakota Westmoreland for another supplier, the Bismarck Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1PuiL4T ).

Dan Neurohr, a longtime United Mine Workers of America worker at the site who soon will be retiring, said everyone knew the layoffs were coming. He said some miners and staff took other mining jobs, and replacements knew their jobs could be short-term.

“I hate to see it all go,” Neurohr said.

In May, Coyote Station will start taking coal from a new North American Coal Corp. operation called the Coyote Creek Mining Co., which is poised to dig just to the southwest of Dakota Westmoreland’s site. North American is already the biggest coal operator in the state, with the Coteau Freedom mine north of Beulah and the Falkirk Mine near Underwood.

Coyote Station is operated by Otter Tail Power Co., one of four owners, along with MDU. Owners said they switched coal suppliers because North American could offer a better price.

Jody Mann, Dakota Westmoreland’s president, said in the notice that the layoffs will occur in three batches, starting with 10 employees laid off on March 10, 46 on March 18 and the final 39 leaving April 30.

“We sincerely regret this layoff has become necessary,” Mann wrote.

Beulah Mayor Darrell Bjerke said the timing is made worse with the recent closure of the Beulah Job Service office, just when the laid off workers could have used the employment help. The Beulah site is one of seven regional office closures by Job Service North Dakota to deal with a $4 million budget shortfall.

Job Service will set up a computer kiosk in Beulah to provide some service to job seekers, the mayor said.

“They are trying to ease the pain a little,” Bjerke said.

Dakota Westmoreland will retain 40 miners and others to mine the half-million tons it is scheduled to deliver annually through 2021 to the MDU-Heskett Station near Mandan. The Dakota Westmoreland mine had 145 employees at peak.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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