Mine shutdowns in top US coal region bring new uncertainty

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GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) - Shutdowns of two of the world's largest coal mines are adding to uncertainty for the top U.S. coal-producing region.

Wyoming employees of Blackjewel LLC hold out hope the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines in the Powder River Basin might reopen. Blackjewel filed for bankruptcy July 1 and the mines have been shut down ever since.

The company says it is looking for ways to resume production soon but workers say that does not alleviate the uncertainty. They must decide whether to take other jobs or wait to see if they will get their old jobs back.

The Blackjewel bankruptcy is one of several in the basin as utilities switch to cleaner-burning natural gas and renewable energy to generate electricity.

U.S. coal production is down 30 percent since 2008.

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