By Mike Grant
---- — CORNING — The roar of trucks and drag lines is drawing to a close at the Viking Mine in southwestern Daviess County. Peabody Energy has filed a notice with the state of its plans to shut down the entire mine operation. Company officials say they have not set an exact date for the shutdown but in the Federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, it announced the closing will be permanent and will begin sometime between December 31, 2013 and January 13, 2014.
The Viking Mine opened in 1988 and last year produced 1.3 million tons of coal and employed 110 people. Company officials say the mine has reached the end of its coal reserves. The company notice says the closing will impact 89 jobs, but Peabody is working with Viking employees to try and place them in positions with other company operations in the Midwest.
A company spokesman issued a statement saying a number of the employees have been offered placement at other Peabody operations and will be moving to their new rolls. The statement says the notice was given in advance to help those workers begin a smooth transition to new positions, and that the goal is to retain the skilled workforce.
Peabody Coal and its subsidiary Black Beauty have several mines in southwestern Indiana including the Bear Run Mine in Sullivan County and the Francisco Mine in Gibson County.
The company did attempt in 2006 to try and expand its Viking coal pits into the Glendale Fish and Wildlife Area in southern Daviess County. Peabody was allowed to drill to check for coal potential in the area. Even though the drilling indicated coal in the area the public turned out for a public hearing on the proposal and expressed overwhelming opposition. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources turned down the request.
The announced closing will have an impact on Daviess County but just how large it will be is uncertain. "The impact is lessened because of the number of workers who have been moved to other mining jobs," said Ron Arnold with the Daviess County Economic Development Corporation. "It still is going to have an effect. We'll lose the taxes they pay and the fuel and repairs of machinery and trucks. We hate to lose them. They have to have places to mine and this one is done."
The closing of the Viking Mine is different from the shutdown of the Air Quality Mine in Knox County by Peabody last year. In announcing that closing, the company said market conditions were the cause.
Business officials say they believe that more coal mine closings could be in the future in Indiana. "Regulations on coal fired power plants just keep getting tighter," said Arnold. "In this climate folks at the federal level appear to be anti-coal. We need to have a discussion nationally about the value of coal. It is an abundant and inexpensive source of energy, and if things don't change we may see more closings."