Legislators visit to discuss aid for idled coal miners
DENVER — Sen. Gail Schwartz and Rep. Millie Hamner want to do what they can to help Delta County residents deal with the recent idling of Oxbow Mine near Somerset.
The two Democrats, whose districts include all or part of the county, said they are bringing representatives of several state agencies to a meeting this Saturday to help local residents cope with it.
“Not only has this idling of the mine resulted in the layoff of nearly 300 individuals, it has impacted school enrollment, tax revenue and local businesses,” Schwartz said. “Our goal in this meeting is to discuss not only what resources are available to families and communities immediately, but also to discuss solutions and opportunities to broaden and build the local economy.”
Oxbow Mining announced in December that it was idling Elk Creek Mine and laying off the 115 miners who remained on the job after the mine laid off 150 others earlier in the year because of a coal-seam fire that sparked in January 2013.
A crew of about 20 miners is expected to remain at the mine to help maintain it.
Though the mine is located in Gunnison County, most of the miners work in Delta County. As a result, that county will be more hard hit in terms of people’s lives and their economic prosperity, the two lawmakers said.
As a result, the legislators are inviting as many area residents who want to attend to meet with officials from the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment, the Office of Economic Development and International Trade and the Department of Local Affairs. The officials will be there to tell local residents what state resources are available to help them deal with the situation.
Grand Junction resident Reeves Brown, executive director of DOLA, also is expected to attend, Schwartz said, adding that representatives from the mine, the coal industry and the county also have been invited to attend to answer questions about the mine’s future and other mining and economic activities in the region.
Schwartz and Hamner also have invited Reps. Don Coram, R-Montrose, and Jared Wright, R-Fruita, to the meeting because residents in their districts have been impacted as well.