In October, the St. Louis-based company set in motion a new alternative work schedule at the high-sulfur steam coal mine along the Union County-Henderson County border. The schedule, which calls for miners to work four days in a row, then have two days off, essentially allows Highland to produce coal seven days a week, according to Patriot spokeswoman Janine Orf. The mine produces coal from the Kentucky No. 9 seam.

To make the schedule work more smoothly, Patriot in late fall was in the process of hiring about 45 additional employees at the mine, whose hourly workers are represented by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).

Orf said the new unit should begin operating sometime during the first quarter of 2014. Highland’s production was down somewhat through the first three quarters of 2013 compared with 2012. The mine produced 2.16 million tons of coal in the first nine months of this year after turning out 3.9 million tons last year, federal Mine Safety and Health Administration figures show. It has almost 400 employees.