Grande Cache Coal is laying off 175 employees as of Feb. 3.

Greg Cox, the superintendent of human resources, said the company is temporarily idling the surface mine due to market conditions and the falling price of metallurgical coal.

Controlling interest in the mine was sold to Chinese company Up Energy Development Group for just $2 in October 2014.

Cox said the layoffs aren’t related to the sale.

Formal layoff notices will be handed out in the next couple of weeks. The mine employs 440 people.

Gary Taje, representative for the United Mine Workers, said as many as 250 people could be laid off. He said the impact on Grande Cache will be tremendous. 

“It’s very significant. It’s drastic. It will have a huge impact on the town," he said. "In a town of 4,000 people, that’s absolutely huge. And then, of course, it brings in the uncertainty for the future.”

He said people have already been leaving to pursue other opportunities, and the layoffs will make the situation worse.