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Bridger Coal company to close underground mining in November
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Bridger Coal company to close underground mining in November

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Bridger Coal

Cliffs tower over the entrance to the underground mine at the Jim Bridger Coal Mine northeast of Rock Springs in 2008.

Bridger Coal Company will close its underground mining operation near Rock Springs in November, the company disclosed in a letter to that city’s mayor.

The closure will affect 94 employees, according to the letter. But that doesn’t mean they will all lose their jobs. The letter indicates that union workers “will have bidding rights to our surfacing mining operation.” Sixty-eight of the 94 employees are union members.

Around 15 of the workers at the underground mine have already accepted jobs with the company’s nearby surface mining operation, said Tiffany Erickson, a spokeswoman for Rocky Mountain Power, whose parent company, the utility PacifiCorp, owns the mine. They’ll move to those jobs once the closure happens.

The utility expects more underground workers will eventually land at the surface mine as well.

Erickson said the closure is not a surprise. It was communicated to workers as far back as 2016.

“The hope is employees are notified and prepared and aware of what is going on,” she said.

The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local S1978, which represents the workers, also did not return a call seeking comment.

The closure is set to happen on or after Nov. 19, the letter states.

Jim Bridger is the sole underground coal mine in Wyoming, with its coal feeding the nearby Jim Bridger power plant. Two units at that coal-fired plant, which is owned by PacifiCorp, are slated to be converted to operate on natural gas in 2024.

Bridger Coal Company, which operates the mine for PacifiCorp, sent the letter to Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo on Sept. 3. A copy of the communication was posted to the agenda for Tuesday’s meetings of the Rock Springs City Council.

Notice of a pending mass layoff or permanent closure is required to be sent to government officials under a 1988 federal law, the letter states.

PacifiCorp released its biennial integrated resource plan on Sept. 1. That plan indicated the utility would close all of its coal-fired power plants in Wyoming by 2039.

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Editor

Joshua Wolfson joined the Star-Tribune in 2007, covering crime and health before taking over the arts section in 2013. He also served as managing editor before being named editor in June 2017. He lives in Casper with his wife and their two kids.

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