GILLETTE — As Blackjewel LLC coal miners begin their third week locked out of the company’s dozens of mines in Wyoming, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia, many are running out of patience and time waiting for the company to resume operations.

About 1,700 employees have been laid off since Blackjewel abruptly announced it was out of money and shut down its mines and sent workers home July 1. That includes nearly 600 from its flagship Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines in Campbell County.

After a first week of events that played out more like a soap opera than a bankruptcy proceeding, Blackjewel workers have been watching from the sidelines as the company had $20 million worth of emergency financing pulled, then a coup from creditors that forced out former president and CEO Jeff Hoops Sr.

Since then, Blackjewel’s new leadership and reorganization team has been reassuring employees that it’s No. 1 goal is to secure financing to reopen its mines and continue a Chapter 11 reorganization.

Although the next hearing with the U.S. Bankruptcy court isn’t scheduled until July 31, Blackjewel has said it wants to resolve its financial issues before then. In the meantime, it has about $2 million left of a $5 million post-petition loan it secured July 3. A condition of the financing was Hoops’ resignation.

The money is being used to provide security and necessary maintenance at mines.


By Greg Johnson

Gillette News Record Via Wyoming News Exchange