A western Kentucky county could lose half of its coal-mining workforce in the next couple of months.
Coal mining employs about 1,200 people in Union County, but that could change, according to a layoff notice issued by Patriot Coal Corporation.
The company is warning that up to 670 workers could be laid off in February at the Highland mine on the Union-Henderson County border and at the Dodge Hill complex.
Union County Judge-executive Jody Jenkins says, unfortunately, the news is familiar.
"For the last 60 years, I guess, coal mining has been the life blood of this community, Jenkins told WKU Public Radio. "Historically, we've had mine closures and layoffs, but it doesn't make it any easier."
Union County's unemployment rate in October was 4.8%. The statewide rate was 6.2%.
Patriot emerged from bankruptcy reorganization a year ago and had earlier closed its mines in Henderson County. In a news release, the company said low natural gas prices and tougher EPA regulations continue to drive down coal prices, resulting in operating losses at many mines.