Kopper Glo Mining bid approved by court

Published 12:36 pm Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Kopper Glo Mining was approved by the federal bankruptcy court as the winning bid for Black Mountain and Lone Mountain mining operations and their assets during a hearing on Tuesday in Charleston, W.Va. Previous Blackjewel miners attended court hearings on Monday when a decision had not yet been decided, but they learned Wednesday of the $450,000 pledged to them to cover back wages, whether they return to work or not.

The discussion of the bid went well into Tuesday evening when a disagreement between Kopper Glo and Caterpillar erupted during the hearing. Kopper Glo’s bid was put at risk when the company would not agree to Caterpillar’s condition to carve out their equipment from the deal. After much debate, Kopper Glo’s bid was still successful in the end when Caterpiller withdrew its claim, according to court documents.

Kopper Glo has also pledged up to an additional $550,000 to go toward the same fund from anticipated future royalties. The combined monies represent nearly half of the losses Kentucky miners experienced as a results of “clawed-back” checks and Blackjewel’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The miners have a priority lien against the $6 million Kopper Glo will pay to the debtor at the time of closing; however, the miners’ attorney will have to compete against other lien holders for the miners’ share of the $6 million.

“We believe that all or nearly all of the lien holders have separately resolved their liens, and so our primary competitors will be the government,” said Sam Petsonk, an attorney in West Virginia. “Kopper Glo’s attorney advised that it is their intention to operate the mines and employ as many of the Blackjewel miners as possible.”

Ned Pillersdorf, the attorney hired for the miners by Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley, said the outcome of the hearing “far exceeded my grim expectations.”

“Throughout the process, I have told miners that the only way to get relief from the horrible predicament they were placed in was to ignore the clueless politicians making empty promises of support and head straight to the bankruptcy court in West Virginia and prepare for legal battles,” Pillersdorf said. “We battled and succeeded, and thanks to West Virginia attorney Sam Petsonk and the courtroom presence of the miners, we obtained an excellent result.”

Although Kopper Glo’s bid was approved by the bankruptcy court, the company will still need to file the proper paperwork, documentation and other background work before being able to open the mining operations again.

“It’s pretty awesome if they (Kopper Glo) stick with what they’re telling us,” said miner Jerod Blevins on Wednesay. “Which we don’t know every little detail yet, that’s why the attorney that’s representing us is coming and talking to us today. He’s supposed to be filling us in with some better information.”

Pillersdorf appeared at the protest site Wednesday at 2 p.m. to answer any questions miners and their families had and to explain what their next steps should be. Petsonk was present via phone call. Pillersdorf told miners that Kopper Glo’s attorney said information regarding when payment would be made to the miners would be relayed to Petsonk, but he has yet to be informed regarding the miners pay. Pillersdorf said it is likely Kopper Glo is still in the process of finalizing paperwork and said if by chance the miners weren’t paid by the company, then Kopper Glo would be in violation of a contract with the miners.

One of the main questions miners are left asking is the current prosecution of former Blackjewel owner Jeff Hoops and if he will be charged as a criminal.

“What we think has happened is that Jeff Hoops moved money from Blackjewel’s account and into his dad’s Lexington Coal account, then said Blackjewel had no money and had to file for bankruptcy,” Pillersdorf said. “As of right now, we have sued Jeff Hoops, his father and Lexington Coal, all individually, and the case is currently pending.”

Pillersdorf added the coal sitting on the tracks worth around $1 million is still in play as the Kentucky Department of Labor push to ensure the miners are paid. He said the coal would not move until matters are resolved and the department of labor has a court order to ensure the removal of the coal is prohibited.

Pillersdorf assured miners they would be paid, regardless of their decision to work for Kopper Glo.