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McLean County Officials Planning 'Rapid Response' To Help Terminated Coal Miners

Paringa Resources

  McLean County officials are finalizing plans for a “rapid response” to assist coal miners who recently lost their jobs on one day’s notice.

 The Poplar Grove coal mine that began operations in December 2018 has encountered a series of financial and geological troubles.

The Poplar Grove mine, about 30 miles south of Owensboro, is owned by the Australian company Paringa Resources and operated by its wholly-owned subsidiary, the Hartshorne Mining Group.

Hartshorne sent a letter to some employees on Feb. 17 informing them they’d be terminated the following day. 

McLean County Judge Executive Curtis Dame said he’s talked with some of the miners and estimates at least 40 of them have lost their jobs, about half the workforce at the mine.

“I just happenstance ran into a few at a fuel station near Sacramento, which is close to where the mine is located physically.  Most of the miners were not aware that this was going to happen," said Dame. "They know that the mine was having issues, but from what they’d understood, things were starting to ramp back up.”

Dame says he is working with officials at the Green River Area Development District to set a date for a “rapid response” workshop. That will provide unemployed miners with information on resources such as unemployment benefits, health insurance, and job training to help them get back on their feet as quickly as possible.

Hartshorne Mining Group said in its Feb. 17 letter that  it would transition from operating two mining units to one unit "within the next few days." The decrease in operations, the letter from company President David Gay said, is because the company "...has been dilignetly seeking, but has not suceeded in, obtaning new financing to continue its mining operations as planned and to meet its production targets."

As of Feb. 18, Hartshorne was meeting its commitment to provide coal to Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities, according to Daniel Lowry, a spokesman for the utilities. Lowry said there hadn't been any interruptions in coal deliveries from the Poplar Grove mine. 

“The last loading at their mine for us was on Friday and the barges are on their way to our Ohio River plants," Lowry said on Feb. 18.

Paringa Resources recently halted trading of its stock on U.S. and Australian exchanges while it was seeking new financing. The company also reported an unexpected geological fault that slowed production, as well as roof problems that allowed water to saturate the floor of one part of the mine.

Rhonda Miller began as reporter and host for All Things Considered on WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.
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