Blackjewel

Sydney Boles

Coal miners who went without pay when mining company Blackjewel declared bankruptcy this June are one step closer to receiving lost wages. The checks come weeks after some of the miners ended a long-running protest, and months after the federal Department of Labor first intervened to allege the company violated labor laws in the month before it folded.

Rumors of a deal circulated early this month, and in consent orders filed in U.S. district courts in Kentucky and Virginia, Blackjewel committed to pay more than $5 million to miners.


Ned Pillersdorf

The Department of Labor and a company associated with Blackjewel agreed this week to put nearly $5.75 million toward coal miners left unpaid in the company’s chaotic bankruptcy.

The July 1 bankruptcy of one of the nation’s largest coal companies left 1,100 coal miners in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia out of work and without weeks of pay. The potential deal comes after a nearly two-month-long protest by unpaid miners, who blockaded a railroad to stop over a million dollars worth of coal from leaving Harlan County, Kentucky.


Former Blackjewel Miners End Railroad Blockade In Kentucky

Sep 26, 2019
Sydney Boles | Ohio Valley ReSource

The nearly two-month blockade of a Kentucky railroad track is coming to an end as unpaid coal miners end their protest in order to take new jobs, start classes, or move away from their coal-dependent communities. 

When coal company Blackjewel abruptly declared bankruptcy in July, it left some 1100 Appalachian coal miners in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia without pay. On July 29, five miners blockaded a train full of coal preparing to leave a Blackjewel facility in Harlan County, Kentucky. The miners’ rallying cry was “No Pay, No Coal.” 

But after 59 days on the tracks, the protest is coming to an end.


Curren Sheldon

West Virginia employees of coal operator Blackjewel LLC have received their final paychecks more than two months after the company declared bankruptcy on July 1.

In an agreement reached last week between the Department of Labor and the company, Blackjewel cut paper checks for all owed wages to a few dozen employees working at the company’s Pax Mine in Fayette County, West Virginia.


Sydney Boles

Kentucky’s labor secretary is defending his agency’s handling of the Blackjewel fallout.  The company abruptly declared bankruptcy in July, putting hundreds of coal miners out of work and paying them with cold checks. 

Attorney General Andy Beshear last week accused the Labor Cabinet of negligence for not enforcing a law that would have paid the miners.  Coal companies operating in Kentucky five years or less are supposed to pay a performance bond that equals four weeks of pay for its employees if the mine closes. 

Labor Secretary David Dickerson says that under existing law, the Labor Cabint can’t force a mining company to pay.  It can only issue fines, which some companies rather pay than comply with the order.  He refutes Beshear’s claims that the Labor Cabinet has been negligent in bringing other companies into compliance.


Brittany Patterson I Ohio Valley ReSource

Standing at an overlook on the top of Black Mountain — the tallest point in Kentucky —  the wooded Appalachian mountains stretch on like a sea of green for miles.

For many, this mountain is synonymous with the coal industry. It straddles the state line separating Harlan County, Kentucky and Wise County, Virginia, two communities that have long relied on mining the black gold contained in its depths.


Ryland Barton

Kentucky’s attorney general is accusing the state Labor Cabinet of negligence following the bankruptcy of Blackjewel Mining in Harlan County. 

After the mine closed July 1, miners’ paychecks bounced and they haven't been paid by the company since.  Andy Beshear says other miners face the same risk. 

Mining and construction companies doing business in Kentucky for less than five years are required to post performance bonds equal to one month’s payroll.  The attorney general says an investigation by his office has found that no mining companies have paid the bonds, putting around 1,000 miners in jeopardy.

Curren Sheldon

Curtis Cress sat in the gravel beside a railroad track in Harlan County, Kentucky. Tall and thin with a long, black beard, Cress is every bit a coal miner, or, he was until a month ago.

“It’s part of my heritage, you know? My dad and papaws had always done it,” he said. “And I’m proud of that heritage.”

Cress had been at these railroad tracks for days, with little sleep. Not far down the rails sat a row of hopper cars filled with coal from his former employer, Blackjewel Coal.


Protesting Blackjewel Miners Could Get Some Overdue Pay From Bankruptcy Sale

Aug 7, 2019
Curren Sheldon

More than a thousand coal miners left unpaid by the abrupt bankruptcy of Blackjewel mining could soon be getting some – but not all – of the money they are owed.

Dozens of miners have staged a week-long protest on railroad tracks in Kentucky’s Harlan County, blocking delivery of a load of coal from a Blackjewel mine and demanding their pay. 

A federal court overseeing the Blackjewel bankruptcy Tuesday concluded the sales of the mining company’s properties and equipment, and buyers have put money toward paying some of the roughly $11.8 million in pay and benefits due to miners in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia, most of whom have been without pay for a month.


Few Answers For Unpaid Miners After Day One of Blackjewel Sales Hearing

Aug 6, 2019
Sydney Boles

Blackjewel coal miners will have to wait at least another day to learn if the sale of the bankrupt coal company’s mines and equipment will deliver their overdue paychecks.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia recessed Monday after an all-day hearing that yielded few results. The court is scheduled to resume the hearing Tuesday at 9 a.m.

Presiding Judge Frank Volk approved six bids, however the three main sale proposals for Blackjewel mines in Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming remain in limbo.

Curren Sheldon

Unpaid miners spent a fourth day Thursday on a Kentucky railroad protesting Blackjewel Mining, as a bankruptcy court prepared to sell off the company’s assets.

Blackjewel Miners Block Railroad To Demand Pay From Bankrupt Coal Company

Jul 30, 2019
Sydney Boles

Some coal miners left without pay by the bankruptcy of coal company Blackjewel LLC are protesting by blocking a coal train in eastern Kentucky.

The stand-off began early Monday when five miners blocked the train from leaving the Cumberland, Kentucky, plant. Despite police asking them to leave, miners spent the night blocking the railroad to protest Blackjewel moving coal while miners have yet to be paid.


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

Jul 11, 2019
Sydney Boles | Ohio Valley ReSource

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

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

The country’s sixth-largest coal company filed bankruptcy last week, and Fitchpatrick was among many of Blackjewel’s 1,100 workers across Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia who were suddenly out of work.

 


Jeff Young

Kentucky’s Attorney General said on Friday he is investigating complaints from miners who say they are not receiving pay following the fast-moving bankruptcy negotiations for Blackjewel mining, which employs some 1100 people in Central Appalachia.

Attorney General Andy Beshear said in a statement he has received “numerous troubling complaints” related to the company, “ranging from clawed back paychecks to child support issues.