Bristol, Tennessee-based Contura Energy received the green light from a federal bankruptcy judge Tuesday to move forward with buying three mines in Wyoming and West Virginia from bankrupt coal producer Blackjewel LLC.
The proposed sale, however, still must be approved by the federal government, and it’s not clear how soon operations would resume at the mines.
A Contura representative declined comment Tuesday evening.
After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 1 and unsuccessfully trying to obtain long-term financing, Blackjewel held a court-approved auction over three days last week to sell its assets to interested bidders.
Ultimately, Contura ended up with a winning bid of $33.75 million for the Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and the Pax Surface mine in West Virginia. Contura previously announced an initial bid of $20.6 million for the trio of sites, which included an immediate $8.1 million deposit that kept Blackjewel afloat.
Contura owned these two Wyoming mines before — it sold them to Blackjewel in 2017 and still holds permits for Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte. It was in the “final stages” of transferring the permits when Blackjewel filed for bankruptcy, Contura’s release states. Contura will still be responsible for the multimillion-dollar reclamation obligations at the sites.
Over the course of a two-day hearing that started Monday in Charleston, West Virginia, Blackjewel has also sought approval for a number of sales involving assets in the Appalachian region, including in Virginia.
The judge authorized Coking Coal LLC’s purchase of the Pardee Mine in Wise County and Kopper Glo Mining LLC’s purchase of the Black Mountain and Lone Mountain mines near the Kentucky/Virginia border, according to Eastern Kentucky news station WYMT.
A complete list of the specific Virginia-related assets was not immediately available Tuesday evening, and it’s also not clear when operations would be restored at any of these facilities.
When Blackjewel filed for bankruptcy, the company halted operations at its facilities in Virginia, Wyoming, Kentucky and West Virginia, and most of the company’s 1,700 employees found themselves out of work.
Hundreds of miners haven’t been paid for work completed prior to the bankruptcy filing, and many are in difficult financial situations.
State officials estimate Blackjewel employed about 500 people in Virginia in 2018.