Staffing at the closed New Horizon Mine in Nucla will be reduced to a skeletal level in late January following the completion of major portions of reclamation.
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association said in a news release Tuesday that the workers at the coal mine, which currently employs 19 people, have been notified along with the United Mine Workers of America union that the facility staff will be cut to four people.
Tri-State announced in 2016 that the mine and 100-megawatt Nucla Station power plant that the mine supplied would be retired as part of a regional haze agreement with the state and conservation groups. The plan calls for the plant to be retired by the end of 2022.
Mining ended and reclamation of the mine began in June 2017. Tri-State says major earthmoving and revegetation activities have been completed, and the four remaining employees are being retained to complete administrative and permitting process with the goal of reclamation bonds being released in the next 10 to 15 years.
Tri-State and United Mine Workers of America union representatives and members reached an agreement in 2017 that has included severance payments, medical benefits and education for existing employees, and options for severing employment or continuing to work on the reclamation effort. Tri-State said several employees already have resigned, retired early or relocated to another Tri-State facility.
“Our employees have always been faithful stewards of the land, and have safely and steadily made progress in the reclamation of the mine,” Tri-State Chief Executive Officer Mike McInnes said in a statement. “Working with our employee representatives and the United Mine Workers of America, we have a fair agreement in place to support the transition of employees from the mine.”
Also, Tri-State has funded creation of a block grant to improve the financial stability of local businesses and expand entrepreneurial opportunities in western Montrose County. The grants are administered by the Montrose Economic Development Corp. In June, grants were awarded supporting child day care and tourism in Nucla and Naturita.
In 2016, the mine employed nearly 30 people, and the power plant, about 55. Currently, the plant employs about 40 people, and operates on what Tri-State calls a “ready to run” status. Tri-State spokesman Lee Boughey said it isn’t regularly dispatched, but can start when needed, for reliability or economic purposes. For example, power from the plant helped prevent power outages in the region this summer when a transmission line was taken out of service during the 416 Fire in southwestern Colorado, he said.