Officials said January 30 that Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notices have already been issued to about 91 Highland Mining Co. employees related to the expected stoppage of Highland Mining’s Superior, North and Trace Fork surface mines.

Combined, the mines produced 1.5 million tons of thermal coal last year.

Alpha, which also cited regulatory pressures for the decision, is also planning staff reductions at the Reylas and Freeze Fork surface mines; an additional seven workers with Rum Creek Coal’s Anna Branch reclamation unit, working at the affected mines, will also be displaced.

The producer will be keeping about 25% of its workers on payroll for reclamation work as three of the operations wind down to an idle state. It expects all idlings and worker cuts to be complete by the middle of April.

Alpha Chairman and CEO Kevin Crutchfield stressed the need to adjust for challenged market conditions. “We made a short-term decision in November to keep these mines operating as existing coal supply contracts were being fulfilled,” he said. “Unfortunately, despite the hard work of these operations to reduce costs in this unprecedented business climate, prices remain depressed and current coal supply simply exceeds demand.”

He noted that the actions Alpha has taken are “consistent with steps that we’ve taken in the past to build a smaller but more sustainable portfolio of mining assets” across its footprint, and added that a portion of the impacted miners will be able to fill other available positions at other Alpha mines.