Two coal mines in Wyoming closed and sent 700 workers home Monday afternoon after the owner was granted bankruptcy, the last blow to a region that has been hit by an economic downturn in fossil fuels.
Blackjewel LLC, which runs Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr Mines near Gillette, sent the workers home after a bank denied the company $ 20 million in funding to continue operations under bankruptcy proceedings, said Jeffery Hoop, CEO.
"Actually, what we are worried about is the workers who are affected and similar to what we did in 201
Blackjewel owes at least $ 500 million in debt, including about $ 6 million to employees, according to court records, and its financial problems, along with much of the coal industry, are coming under increased natural gas competition. and Renewable Energy Sources.
"The ripple effect of this bankruptcy may be felt seriously (by) Wyoming taxpayers and suppliers," said Clark Williams-Derry, Director of Energy Finance at Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based environmental tank. "And millions of millions of dollars Campbell (County) are due, they can't get."  Hoop bought Wyoming coal mines two years ago from Contura Energy. Another of Hoop's companies in the case, Revelation Energy LLC, operates mines in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia.
Hoop told the Star Tribune that he learned on a Monday morning court hearing that United Bank of West Virginia denied the company $ 20 million funding attempted to continue mining operations in the meantime.
Workers were sent home from the mines on Monday afternoon by the company.
"We have only advised them that the mines are out of service for further notice we are continuing to attempt to solve the problem," Hoop said.
According to Hoop, workers were paid checkout this week.
"United Bank was very insensitive. They put around 700 people's lives, they really raised their lives, Hoop said.
A United Bank spokesman could not be immediately reached for a comment on Monday night.
Industry in decline
Blackjewel is the fifth coal producer in Wyoming to file bankruptcy in recent years, Bristol, Tennessee-based Alpha Natural Resources filed for bankruptcy in 2015, followed by Peabody Energy and Arch Coal in 2016. Westmoreland Coal, which runs Kemmerer the mine in southwest Wyoming, filed for bankruptcy in October
Even with half of Wyoming's coalland being consolidated and the other half in bankruptcy proceedings, few experts told that once the lucrative powder river basin would undergo such a rapid decline, including Rob Godby, professor and director of the University of Wyoming Center for Energy Economy and Public Policy.  "Just a few years ago everyone, including me, knew that thermal coal from coal fell, but the powder river basin was the healthiest of coal-producing areas," Godby said. "People in Wyoming took it for granted."
Ten years ago, Campbell County produced over 400 million tons of coal. Last year, production dropped to 283 million, according to the Wyoming Mining Association.
As the price of coal and the demand for the commodities fell, a significant lender for Blackjewel recently withdrew and throws the company's already unclear economic picture into further problems  Federal Court approves the sale of Kemmerer coal mine "class =" img- responsive lazyload full "width =" 1793 "height =" 1155 "data-sizes =" auto "data-srcset =" https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/trib.com/content/tncms/assets/ v3 / editorial / e / 5a / e5a44a80-375f-5af3-9754-89f9f31c8abf / 5cfea317e62c0.image.jpg? resize = 200% 2C129 200w, https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/trib.com/content /tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/5a/e5a44a80-375f-5af3-9754-89f9f31c8abf/5cfea317e62c0.image.jpg?resize=300%2C193 300w, https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/ trib.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/e/5a/e5a44a80-375f-5af3-9754-89f9f31c8abf/5cfea317e62c0.image.jpg?resize=400%2C258 400w, https://bloximages.chicago2.vip .townnews.com / trib.com / content / tncms / assets / v3 / editorial / e / 5a / e5a44a80-375f-5af3-9754-89f9f31c8abf / 5cfea317e62c0.image.jpg? Resize = 540% 2C348 540w, https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/trib.com/content/tncms/assets/vrib /editorial/e/5a/e5a44a80-375f-5af3-9754-89f9f31c8abf/5cfea317e62c0.image.jpg?resize=750%2C483 750w, https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/trib.com/content/ tncms / assets / v3 / editorial / e / 5a / e5a44a80-375f-5af3-9754-89f9f31c8abf / 5cfea317e62c0.image.jpg? resize = 1200% 2C773 1200w, https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/trib .com / content / tncms / assets / v3 / editorial / e / 5a / e5a44a80-375f-5af3-9754-89f9f31c8abf / 5cfea317e62c0.image.jpg? resize = 1700% 2C1095 1700w "/>