U.S. Fuel Co. has announced it will lay off 134 miners at its only active mine next week because of low prices and poor quality coal.

Only 18 employees will remain at the King No. 4 mine. The layoff is effective April 19, said Gary Barker, U.S. Fuel president and general manager.Barker said the mine will be able to meet long-term contracts by drawing down a large stockpile and with the coal mined by the remaining workers.

Those contracts, which total about 15 percent of the company's production, are with Nevada Power Co. and the Intermountain Power Agency, which purchases 108,000 tons a year.

Barker said the mine has encountered a "thin seam" of relatively poor-quality coal containing sulfur and ash quantities unacceptably high to most customers.

"And, unfortunately, since this is an old mine we have no where else to go," he said.

And spot coal prices, below $20 a ton, are too low to justify developing coal reserves in Hiawatha, located south of Price in eastern Utah, he said.

"If the price improves, we'll take a new look," Barker said. He predicted the layoff would last "a long time."