Local, State Leaders React To Closure Of Delta County Coal Mine

Mar 1, 2016

The Bowie #2 Mine outside of Poania, Colo.
Credit WildEarth Guardians

Another coal mine will shut down in Western Colorado. Bowie Resource Partners is idling the Bowie #2 Mine near Paonia.

In a release, the company cites the continued decline of the coal market as the reason for the closure.

The mine currently employs 108 people. Bowie estimates 68 full-time positions will be eliminated in April, but by July, nearly everyone will lose their job. 

Several years ago, more than 300 people worked there. However, layoffs started after the company lost a coal supply agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority. 

Delta County Commissioner Bruce Hovde says this is another economic blow to an area still struggling from the closure of the Oxbow coal mine in 2014.  

Bowie #2 Mine
Credit WildEarth Guardians

"It’s a kick in the teeth," says Hovde. "This is pushing 700 mining jobs that we have lost. These are very high paying jobs. And, it will be hard on everyone in the community."

The average miner in Colorado earns more than double the average wage of a Delta County worker, according to federal data.

Hovde says it’s not just jobs that will leave the area, it’s also tax revenue and population. When families move, school enrollment drops and businesses also suffer.

County Administrator Robbie LeValley estimates Delta County will see about $500,000 cut from its budget next year. She says this means the county will need to tighten its belt even further.

However, LeValley hopes a regional effort to improve broadband speeds will benefit the county.

"We know that broadband will help other industries come here and stay here," she says. "We know that it will also help the businesses that are [already] here."

State Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, is sponsoring a bill that would provide economic assistance grants to rural communities affected by mass layoffs or a plant shutdown.

Donovan sponsored a similar measure last session that died in committee.

"This bill was written specifically with Delta County in mind and I really wish it had passed last year so it would be in place right now," she says.

Donovan says the measure would also include state support.  

"So kind of a double-whammy approach of not only funds that can be used very broadly to support the community, but also bringing the resources of the state to the community in terms of the Department of Labor, Office of Economic Development, and the Department of Local Affairs."

The bill is making its way through the state Senate. Delta County officials hope to see it signed into law.