The parent company of Rocky Mountain Power has decided to shut down the Deer Creek coal mine near Huntington. The closure represents a blow to organized labor in Utah.
The Deer Creek mine supplies coal to the Huntington power plant, one of two major plants in Emery County that supply electricity to the Wasatch Front. Paul Murphy with Rocky Mountain Power says the mine was nearing the end of its useful life. He also says its unionized work force was an issue.
Murphy says, “The cost to operate the mine and the escalating pension liabilities just made it impossible to justify to customers that it was worth mining at Deer Creek.”
About 180 miners will lose their jobs when the shutdown process is complete in a few months. They’ll receive severance and pension benefits under a contract with the United Mine Workers that was just finalized a few weeks ago.
Dale Cox is president of the Utah AFL-CIO, which includes the United Mine Workers. He says the trend away from organized labor makes it harder to maintain middle-class jobs that protect the health and safety of workers.
Cox tells KUER, “The real cost of shutting down that coal mine, not only it being the last union coal mine, but the real cost is the human cost to men and women that are going to have to leave the area or find other employment.”
Rocky Mountain Power has announced new agreements with several non-union mines operated by Bowie Resource Partners to supply coal to the Huntington plant.