In just over one month, Carmeuse Lime and Stone will begin laying off what company officials say is an unknown number employees as it idles its kiln at the Strasburg plant.
Kevin Whyte, senior vice president of legal, environmental and business development for Carmeuse, said in a phone call Tuesday that employees were told about the impending layoffs on Thursday.
“The aggregates plant and the hydrator will continue to operate, and unfortunately some layoffs will be necessary,” Whyte said. “We obviously regret the need to take this action but we are forced to do so by economic and market factors beyond our control.”
Whyte said cheap natural gas and declines in demand for coal-fired power have hurt the limestone industry.
The kiln, Whyte said, is used to burn the limestone to create a chemical oxide used in steelmaking and at coal-fired plants to remove the sulfur from coal when it is burned.
Carmeuse is a Belgium-based company with operations spanning the globe from Asia to Africa. Its North American headquarters is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the company has 28 facilities throughout the country.
Earlier this month, Carmeuse purchased Yager Materials; however, Whyte said that purchase had no effect on the layoffs in Strasburg. The Yager purchase and layoffs here were “totally unrelated,” he said.
In 2012, Carmeuse poured $45 million into its operation in Clear Brook in northern Frederick County to install two new vertical lime kilns. That expansion created about 25 jobs at that plant.
In late 2017, rumor spread that Carmeuse was planning an expansion in Shenandoah County. Carmeuse quashed the rumor, releasing a statement saying it had no plans to expand any operations in Northern Virginia.
Whyte said the Clear Brook plant project began before the possibility of a decline in the market for coal-fired power could be seen.
Carmeuse employs 76 people at the Strasburg plant, Whyte said. He said there is the potential for some employees to transfer to another Carmeuse location, including the Clear Brook site.
It is unclear how the market for coal-fired power will impact Carmeuse long-term. Whyte said the company has no plans to downsize any other facilities at this time.