Blackjewel CEO confident bankrupt coal operator will rebound

Elizabeth Elliot and her husband Earl stand towards the side of the County Commission Chambers during a public meeting at the Campbell County Courthouse in Gillette, Wyo., Tuesday afternoon, July 2, 2019. (Josh Galemore/The Casper Star-Tribune via AP)
This photo shows the entrance to Eagle Butte mine seen taped in Gillette, Wyo., Tuesday, July 2, 2019. The CEO of one of the nation’s largest coal producers says he’s confident the company will bounce back despite the shutdown of several mines after it filed for federal bankruptcy protection. (Josh Galemore/The Casper Star-Tribune via AP)

Milton-based Blackjewel LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for southern West Virginia. News outlets reported the company cited at least $500 million owed in liabilities.

Blackjewel follows other major U.S. coal producers that have filed for bankruptcy protection in recent years, including Englewood, Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Co. in October and Gillette, Wyoming-based Cloud Peak Energy in May.

St. Louis-based Peabody Energy Corp. emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2017 and both Creve Coeur-based Arch Coal and Bristol, Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources emerged in 2016.

Hoops said the company and its partners had insufficient cash to operate and require additional liquidity, especially to pay employees’ wages and benefits.

Blackjewel has about 1,100 employees in its eastern division at mines in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia. It also operates two mines with about 600 workers in northeast Wyoming.

Other recent bankruptcies in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin coal industry haven’t interrupted mining operations.

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