GALATIA - Citing "sudden, unforeseeable circumstances and physical calamities," American Coal Co. announced the layoffs, likely permanent, of 187 employees at the New Future Mine, part of the company's Galatia mine complex.

Affected workers were told of the layoffs Friday, said Rob Murray, vice president of Murray Energy Corp., American Coal's parent company.

"Regretfully, The American Coal Co. must lay off 187 employees at the New Future Mine of the Galatia complex due to sudden, unforeseeable circumstances and physical calamities that are beyond the company's control," Murray said in a e-mailed statement Monday.

The physical calamities occurred at the New Future Mine and are "operational in nature from a mining engineering and geological standpoint," he said.

No further information on the "physical calamities" could be released, Murray said.

"Due to the sudden, dramatic and unexpected nature of the aforementioned events, American Coal is providing its employees with as much notice as possible under the circumstances. American Coal regrets this action due to circumstances beyond its control," Murray said.

American Coal's other 644 employees at New Era, Galatia North and the New Future Mine are unaffected by the layoffs, he said.

The layoffs Friday came just one day after the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee asked federal prosecutors to open a criminal investigation into last year's collapse at Crandall Canyon mine, which is also at least partially owned by a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp.

Six coal miners and three rescuers died in the Utah mine collapse in August.

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., committee chairman, asked for a federal probe after he said he had concerns that "the mine operator may have willfully misled (the Mine Safety and Health Administration) about information that could have affected MSHA's decision to approve the mining plans" at Crandall Canyon.

The collapse is still under investigation, an MSHA spokesman said, and any comment on Miller's request for a criminal investigation would be "premature and speculative."

A representative of the mining company called Miller's request "deplorable" and said it was "merely political grandstanding as he continues to play to his constituents."

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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