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Kentucky Coal Miners Back to Work?

image credit: ID 30230737 © Stanislav Tiplyashin |

After months of uncertainty a federal bankruptcy judge in West Virginia approved a new plan that may help Kentucky coal miners afterall.  Judge Frank Volk for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia granted approval to sell two of the biggest coal mines in the U.S.  The deal could provide Blackjewel LLC the funds needed to pay former employees.  Under the new deal, which also requires federal approval, Contura Energy will pay Eagle Specialty Materials, LLC (ESM) $90 million. ESM will assume $237 million in reclamation liabilities and certain Blackjewel debts.  "ESM is the only buyer that has the necessary agreements with Contura, can demonstrate the necessary support of the key regulatory agencies, and is offering satisfactory consideration so that the sale can close by that date," read an affidavit by debtor-in-possesion Blackjewel.  Judge Volk expressed concern for unpaid and unemployed miners when he questioned Blackjewel attorney Stephen Lerner about whether or not furloughed workers would have the opportunity to return to work. Lerner said that the sale would allow all hourly workers their positions, with over 500 opportunities to return to the mines. Since July employees who have gone without pay continued to block the tracks in protest.  Now former employees are hopeful they will receive wages and 401(k) contributions. New ownership will save the local economy but can anyone save coal? 

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