Coal Valley mine is put on care and maintenance due to the coronavirus. (Photo: Westmoreland)

Westmoreland Mining and its subsidiary Prairie Mines & Royalty ULC announced this week it will be suspending operations at its Coal Valley mine due to the constraints and challenges imposed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Since the start of the outbreak, the company said it has prioritized the health, safety and well-being of its employees, local community and other stakeholders. The company concluded there was no other option than to place Coal Valley on care and maintenance.

“This is a very difficult call for us to make, however, we know it’s the right decision in the circumstances and one that balances our duty of care to our workforce with the long-term interests of Coal Valley,” COO Joe Micheletti said. “For more than four decades, safety has been the cornerstone priority at the operation and these actions highlight the extent to which the day-to-day activities at this unique mine have been compromised by COVID.

“Severance remuneration will be paid to all of the valued employees affected by this disappointing outcome.”

All the equipment and infrastructure on site, including the processing plant, will be maintained to preserve a state of operational readiness.

“We will be transitioning to a small number of employees remaining on site to maintain the property and equipment, as well as to oversee all environmental responsibilities and compliance,” Coal Valley General Manager Stephen Love said. “The operation will take all necessary steps to ensure that safety and environmental protocols and procedures are diligently followed during the care and maintenance period.”

Westmoreland’s management team is currently working with all stakeholders on a phased reduction of production operations at the mine site, with the transition to full care and maintenance activities expected to occur within the next quarter.