Solar Farm (copy)

Lignite mines along the Rusk-Panola County border help feed Luminant’s Martin Creek Lake Power Plant. Luminant will lay off 160 workers from the mines in December and close the mine.

Luminant Mining will lay off 160 workers the day after Christmas from its Liberty Mine and Martin Lake Mining Complex in Tatum, according to a Texas Workforce Commission notice issued Wednesday.

Dallas-based Luminant will cease operations at the lignite mine and lay off additional workers at its Martin Lake Beckville Mine and the Martin Lake Railroad. Employees affected by the closure are being laid off in accordance with a collective bargaining agreement between Luminant and IBEW Local No. 2337.

"As Luminant has planned for some time, the Liberty Mine that provided lignite to the Martin Lake Power Plant since 2014 will be closing by the end of 2021," Luminant spokesman Kyle Weeks said in a statement. "The estimated 160-170 employees impacted were informed earlier this year. They are being provided severance benefits including lump sum cash payments based on service years, additional payments to help offset COBRA expenses, as well as outplacement services. Employees are also being made aware of other open positions within the company."

Weeks said the Liberty Mine closure was a part of the company's "long-term fuel plan." The nearby Martin Lake Power Plant now will operate on coal from the Powder River Basin, which spans parts of Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota.

"Luminant deeply thanks and appreciates the men and women who’ve worked at Liberty and their dedication to powering Texas," Weeks wrote.

Luminant operates the Liberty coal mine and Martin Lake Power Plant in Tatum. The plant was established in the late 1970s and generates enough electricity to power more than 450,000 homes, according to Luminant.

"This is a difficult but necessary action, and we are fully committed to treating our people well and supporting their transition," Ogletree wrote.

More information about the closure was unavailable Wednesday.

Luminant closed its Oak Hill lignite mine south of Longview in December 2016. The company said at the time that the closure was because of coal-fired plants losing market share to more efficient gas-power plants and struggles to meet environmental regulations, leading to less demand for coal.

The closure resulted in layoffs of 132 employees.

Luminant announced plans in October 2020 to build a new solar farm on the site of the retired Oak Hill mine and on the west side of Martin Lake Power Plant.

The plans for the solar farm were part of a wider push by Luminant for more renewable energy, the company said at the time.

The new solar facility is expected to go online in 2022 in the Texas Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) market and will be 200 megawatts, the company said previously.

The Longview area is not part of ERCOT.

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— Marshall News Messenger and Kilgore News Herald staff writer Carter Mize contributed to this report.