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AG Andy Beshear vows to protect Kentucky workers in bankruptcy action by BlackJewell mines


By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Attorney General Andy Beshear is weighing in after his office received complaints about a major West Virginia coal producer that declared bankruptcy earlier this week.



Charleston-based BlackJewel LLC, which operates mines in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday, with CEO Jeff Hoops saying there wasn’t enough money to operate or pay employees’ salaries.



News outlets reported the company cited at least $500 million owed in liabilities.



A federal judge has approved a $5 million lifeline to help one of the country’s largest coal producers navigate bankruptcy on the condition that Hoops step down.



Court documents filed Wednesday said the financing from Riverstone Credit Partners will go toward providing security and personnel to extinguish fires at Blackjewel LLC’s mines as it determines its next steps.

Beshear says the company is not treating workers fairly, nor with the dignity they and their families deserve.

“In the last several days, my office has received numerous troubling complaints related to the Blackjewel mining company ranging from clawed back paychecks to child support issues.” 



Beshear said he has “instructed my office to use all of its powers and resources to seek answers for those who have been harmed. No Kentuckian should put in an honest day’s work only to have their paycheck taken away and their livelihood disrupted.” 



The most recent federal statistics say Blackjewel is the nation’s sixth-largest coal producer, with 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 major U.S. coal producers also have filed for bankruptcy protection in recent years, as the industry continues to lose its market share in supplying coal to power plants, as they switch to natural gas and other energy sources to generate electricity.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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