Komatsu closing

The Komatsu manufacturing plant in Bluefield, Va., is seen as employees wrap up what turned out to be their final day working with the company, Monday.

BLUEFIELD, Va. — The Komatsu manufacturing plant in Bluefield, Va. announced today it is closing, catching employees at the facility off guard.

“We didn’t even know it,” said Tucker Meadows of Princeton, who has worked for the company for 33 years. “They told the second shift to come in two hours early and then they made the announcement at 3 (p.m.) today.”

Meadows said there was “no indication” this was going to happen and he came to work this morning expecting a regular work day.

“They did not even try to work with us,” he said. 

Caley Clinton, global public relations manager for Komatsu America’s offices in Wisconsin, said the company needed “to adjust its manufacturing operations to needed capacity and optimize its global footprint,” with work at the Bluefield plant shifting to three other facilities in the company’s U.S. network.

The local Komatsu Mining Corp. plant is located on Hockman Pike. The company purchased Joy Global in 2017 and in 2018 employed about 175 workers.

Joy Global celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019, and had a huge presence at the Bluefield Coal Show.

“These are truly unprecedented times and as a company we have had to adapt as best we can, working to balance capacity to demand,” said Peter Salditt, president of Komatsu underground mining, in the announcement. “We have a long history in Bluefield and this was a very difficult decision that we are sad to make. The contributions of everyone who worked there, past and present, will always be a proud part of our history and we are working to support affected employees during this difficult time.”

The company plans to meet with bargaining unit representatives to discuss options for employees impacted by the closure. Employees learned of the decision today and Salkitt said the company is committed to keeping them informed throughout the process.

Production work to support the company’s Joy continuous miner products for underground mining will immediately shift to Komatsu facilities in Duffield, Va.; Lebanon, Kentucky; and Homer City, Pennsylvania. “The company does not foresee any delay in production or impact on customer deliveries as a result of the change and Komatsu team members are working to provide a smooth transition for customers,” the statement said.

Meadows said even if they offered employees jobs at other plants it’s hard to move so far away, with the closest plant in Duffield almost a three-hour drive.

“We’ve got good people working here,” he said, “and they come and close the doors on us like this.”

The Bluefield plant has always had a stellar reputation for their work, he said, and customers often request continuous miners manufactured here.

“This is really terrible,” he said.

Komatsu is an industry-leading manufacturer and global supplier of equipment, technologies and services for the construction, forklift, mining, industrial and forestry markets.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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