September 4, 2007
Crown II Mine Closing; Freeman Coal Sold to New Company
By DEBRA LANDIS CORRESPONDENT
GIRARD - Nearly 200 employees of the Crown II mine in Macoupin County were laid off Thursday following the sale of the Freeman United Coal Mining Co., headquartered in Springfield.The new owners say they plan to close Crown II, which is near Girard. about 20 miles south of Springfield.
A new entity, the Springfield Coal Co., bought Crown II, along with the Crown III mine near Farmersville, from General Dynamics in a sale that includes other mining properties in Illinois and is expected to be completed today. Freeman was a subsidiary of General Dynamics.
Terms of the sale, including the purchase price, are confidential, said Rob Dolittle, a General Dynamics spokesman.
Springfield Coal officials told United Mine Workers of America representatives Thursday that the current coal market doesn't warrant keeping the Crown II mine open, so it will be closed today, according to Greg Mahan, president of the Crown II Local 1969 of the UMWA.
The layoffs include 175 miners and 17 other employees, he said.
Fewer than 25 miners will continue to be employed at Crown II for a limited time, moving equipment to nearby Crown III and doing other work, Mahan said. It's also possible, he said, that some Crown II miners could be called to work at Crown III.
"About 60 percent of the miners at Crown II are 50 years or older, and about 20 percent are between 35 and 45. The rest are between 19 and 24," said Mahan, who worked at Crown II for more than 30 years.
Crown III employs about 200 miners.
Springfield Coal Co. was formed by a group of four upper-level managers at Freeman, according to Tom Austin, a longtime Freeman employee and vice president of human resources for the new company, which lists the same address and phone number as Freeman.
Austin said Crown II will be "idled indefinitely." Only a dramatic change in the coal market would lead to a reopening of the mine, he said.
As part of the transition of ownership, operations at Crown III also were immediately suspended.
"Springfield Coal Co. will begin operations at the Crown III mine on Sept. 4. The Crown II mine will remain idle due to market conditions. Springfield Coal Co. will be headquartered in Springfield," a company press release said.
Saying it wanted to leave the coal mining business and focus on other operations, General Dynamics, a major defense contractor, put Crown II and Crown III on the market in December 2006. The two mines each produce about 2 million tons of coal annually, according to the Freeman Web site.
Mahan said members of Local 1969 will meet at 10 a.m. today at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Virden to discuss the Crown II closure.
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