Kemper-related mine expected to cut 75 jobs

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Liberty Fuels Company, which runs Liberty Mine adjacent to Mississippi Power’s Kemper County energy facility, expects to lay off 75 employees at the mine in about two months.

NACCO Industries, the head company that oversees Liberty Fuels Company’s parent North American Coal Co., announced the layoff in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing earlier this week. A notice was issued to the 75 employees on Aug. 4, the filing states.

Under its contract with Mississippi Power, Liberty Fuels Company supplies the lignite coal meant to fuel the gasification portion at the Kemper County energy facility.

Mississippi Power suspended its lignite coal gasification construction at the plant on June 28, pending the outcome of settlement talks with the Mississippi Public Service Commission.

The NACCO filing states the 75 employees’ jobs are to be terminated after a required 60-day Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act Notice period.

The Mississippi Public Service Commission on July 6 called on Mississippi Power to ditch its clean coal plans and only operate the Kemper plant as a natural gas facility, which the plant has done in part since 2014.

In the meantime, North American Coal continues to operate under its contract with Mississippi Power pending the commission’s final decision on the operation of the gasifier and the Liberty Mine.

NACCO Industries said in the filing that it does not expect an immediate financial impact from the layoffs because of the nature of its contract with Mississippi Power, but that could change as the fate of the gasification process becomes clear.

“Should the decision to suspend operations of the gasifier and mine become permanent, it will unfavorably affect North American Coal’s long-term earnings under its contract with Mississippi Power,” the filing states.

Mississippi Power is responsible for all mine closure costs, if required, with Liberty Fuels Company contracted to complete the final mine closure.

Mississippi Power has an Aug. 21 deadline to file a settlement proposal with the commission, which will then decide long-term plans related to the power plant and mine.