Coal Bankruptcy

Laid-Off Employees Of Bankrupt Blackjewel Mining Seek Pay, Answers

Jul 10, 2019

 

Patrick Fitchpatrick has worked at Blackjewel’s D-11 coal mine in Cumberland, Kentucky, for a year and a half. He says he enjoyed the work right up until he was told not to come in last Monday. 

“Everything was fine,” he said. “Everything was smooth sailing and then one day it just all goes to hell.”

The country’s sixth-largest coal company filed bankruptcy last week, and many of Blackjewel’s 1,700 workers in Wyoming and across Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia were suddenly out of work.

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This story was updated on 7/5/2019 at 11:15 a.m.

A federal bankruptcy court in West Virginia has granted a request by West-Virginia based coal company Blackjewel LLC to borrow $5 million to stay afloat, on the condition the company’s president and CEO, Jeff Hoops, resigns.

Peabody Energy, Inc. / Wikimedia Commons

In what is the latest sign of problems for the U.S. coal industry, one of the country’s largest coal producers has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. 

West Virginia-based Revelation Energy LLC and its recently-formed affiliate, Blackjewel LLC, began the bankruptcy reorganization process in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on Monday. 

Kara Lofton/ West Virginia Public Broadcast

Lawmakers from coal-mining states are pushing to extend health benefits for more than 22,000 retired miners and widows whose medical coverage is set to expire at the end of April. Last December, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and other coal-state Democrats won a four-month extension that preserves benefits through April 30. With lawmakers returning to the Capitol following a two-week recess, Manchin says the time for extensions is over and that more than a partial fix is needed.

Steve Helber / AP Photo

Would you go into a dangerous profession if you were assured that you and your dependents would have healthcare and pension for life? For thousands of West Virginia coal miners, the answer to that question was yes.

“When we all started in the mines, we were promised healthcare for life – cradle to grave,” said Roger Merriman. He’s referring to a deal struck between the United Mine Workers of America and the federal government in 1946. Union miners who put in 20 or more years were promised lifelong health benefits.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Jennings Harrison worked in a coal mine for 36 years, over which time he accumulated back problems, neck problems, carpal tunnel in his wrist and precancerous nodules on his lungs.