Coal Critics Slam Peabody Layoffs at Kayenta Mine

Aug 9, 2019

Peabody Energy will lay off nearly its entire workforce at the Kayenta Mine this month as it prepares to close the site. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, coal industry critics say the company is abandoning local communities.

An aerial view of the 36-square-mile of the Kayenta Mine on the Navajo Nation.
Credit Doc Searls/Wikimedia Commons

A new report from the nonprofit Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, says the company is abruptly laying off 265 workers even though federally required plans are in place for years of environmental reclamation at the mine. According to the group, the employees—nearly all of whom are members of the Navajo Nation—should be kept on to rebuild roads, clean coal pits and revegetate the 36-square-mile site.

"The industry is getting the hell out of Dodge, pulling up stakes, and leaving the communities behind … A responsible post-coal reclamation economy can be built in northern Arizona … This bad corporate behavior is not a move in that direction," says Karl Cates, the institute’s research director.

A Peabody spokesperson says the institute’s report disregards the company’s plans to assist workers with unemployment services. Peabody also says it’s handling the layoffs according to its current labor agreement.

The Kayenta Mine opened in 1973 to supply the Navajo Generating Station, and ships out between 6 and 8 million tons of coal each year. According to the company, the mine had a $530 million economic impact last year.

Peabody will send its final load of stockpiled coal to NGS near the end of the month. The plant itself will close in December.