US-based Patriot Coal has temporarily halted coal production at its Highland mine complex near Henderson, Kentucky, to repair a structural failure that damaged a portion of the camp preparation plant on 6 May.
The Highland underground mine is located north of US 60 near Highland Creek, which forms the boundary between Henderson and Union counties.
The camp preparation plant, which is part of the former Peabody Coal Camp Complex, is connected to the Highland mine by a lengthy overland conveyor.
The preparation plant cleans and prepares coal for shipment by barge at a coal terminal that is located several miles away at Uniontown.
According to the company, it will resume partial coal processing operations once the preparation plant is repaired and will resume full production at the mine by 30 June.
During full production, the Highland Mine has more than 500 employees and processes about 3.8 million tonnes of coal a year.
The temporary shutdown of the Highland mine will affect Patriot, which has only recently emerged from an 18-month chapter 11 reorganisation in 2013.
A Patriot spokeswoman was quoted by Courier Press as saying that for months Patriot has been hiring scores of miners for Highland to replace retirees and handle an expanded production week.
The company has also been hosting job fairs in Western and Eastern Kentucky in search of experienced miners for the Highland mine.
However, in April, Patriot had issued 60-day notices of probable job cuts to 847 West Virginia workers at its two mining complexes, due to low demand for thermal electricity-making and metallurgical steel-making coal, and weak coal prices in North America.
Image: Patriot Coal shuts coal production at Highland mine complex near Henderson, Kentucky. Photo: courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.