High Coal Prices Lead to Layoffs in Beulah

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After years of economic growth in North Dakota, there are clear signs of slowing.

Low oil prices led to layoffs in the Bakken. Low commodity prices sparked layoffs at manufacturing plants that make farm equipment. And now, high coal prices are leading to more layoffs.

Dakota Westmoreland coal mine plans to scale back on workers this spring.

At its peak, the mine had a staff of 145 workers.

Almost 100 families will be effected by the Beulah mine layoffs, including those at Beulah High School.

"We have 52 percent of the families employed by the energy industry and most of that is going to be by the coal industry," said Kevin Hoherz, Beulah High School principal.

Eleven students at the high school have a parent employed at the mine. With a town driven by coal, these layoffs impact families across town. Lily Basaraba's husband Doug will be laid off March 18 and worries about their future.

"I'm nervous what if he doesn't get a job, then where do we go, we just bought a house last year and it's a lot to take in," Lily Basaraba, Beulah resident.

Dakota Westmoreland coal mine refused to comment on camera, but sent us a statement on behalf of the company.

"A reduction in workforce is one of the most difficult decisions we face as a company," said Chief Executive Kevin Paprzycki, Westmoreland Coal Company. "However, we must right size the operation to ensure the long-term success of the mine and the customer."

This came about because Coyote Station decided not to renew its contract with Dakota Westmoreland mine due to coal prices, so it made a deal with Coyote Creek Mine because its coal was offered at a more affordable price.

Career opportunities could be on the horizon for the North American Coal Company.

"Coyote Creek will begin advertising for those positions in about a month or two and we fully expect to come up to 110 full time employees come spring as we ramp up towards full production in May," said David Straley, North American Coal.

Although one door has closed, another one may open not too far down the road.

Dakota Westmoreland will maintain 40 employees through 2021 to supply the MDU-Heskett Station near Mandan.