Two major coal companies announced the layoffs of nearly 480 employees at two of its mines in the Powder River Basin on Thursday.

Peabody Energy announced today it will cut about 235 hourly and salaried employees, or about 17 percent of its 1,400 workers, from its North Antelope Rochelle Mine near Gillette, according to a news release.

In a similar move, Arch Coal announced the layoffs of 243 workers, or about 15 percent of its approximately 1,600 workers, at its Black Thunder Mine near Wright.

Both mines, whose companies are based in St. Louis, Mo., produce about 200 million tons of coal a year.

In its news release, Peabody Energy said it is doing so because of an oversupply of natural gas and warmer weather that has reduced the demand for coal.

"While our asset position and contracting strategies give us relative strength, we are taking these actions to match production with customer demand," Peabody President – Americas Kemal Williamson said in the news release.

"We regret the impact of these actions on our employees, their families, and the surrounding communities in the Campbell and Converse county areas," Williamson said.

Peabody is offering severance and outplacement support during the reduction in the workforce. It also has minimized job impacts by adjusting staffing resources, managing contractors and temporary employees, and attrition.

An oversupply of natural gas and mild winter weather have affected U.S. coal industry conditions, according to the news release. Heating degree days year-to-date are 17 percent lower than last year, with March heating degree days down nearly 30 percent compared to the 10-year average.

The latest Energy Information Administration production estimates show the Powder River Basin is faring better than other regions.

Peabody also believes the decrease in coal shipments is leading to stockpile reductions.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.