Blackjewel hearings could be coming to a close

Published 10:42 am Friday, October 4, 2019

Blackjewel proposed an offer in bankruptcy court on Wednesday that could potentially provide $5.5 million in back-pay for miners. The deal comes after the coal company and the Kentucky Department of Labor could not reach an agreement before Oct. 1, leading to a court-ordered mediation by a federal magistrate.

Miners first decided to take to the tracks during the afternoon hours of July 29 when word spread of coal being loaded for transport from a mine owned by Blackjewel. Since then, miners have been blocking the tracks at Sand Hill Bottom Road in order to keep the coal from leaving until they were paid.

Over the course of the past two months, the miners allowed the CSX train engine to pass without the coal, continued to battle in bankruptcy court for wages taken from their accounts and rallied together in a time of need.

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Through many efforts to claim paychecks owed to them, miners and their attorneys have been unsuccessful as bankruptcy hearings continued to be scheduled.

Now, if the proposed deal is approved, the on-going bankruptcy battle between the two parties in Charleston, W.Va., would finally come to a close and allow hundreds to return to their normal lives.

Ned Pillersdorf, one of the miners’ attorneys, said he can’t say much about the negotiations, but “this has gone on too long and we need a resolution sooner rather than later.”

After two months of blocking the train tracks in Cumberland — preventing a load of coal mined from Cloverlick Mine No. 3 from leaving — Blackjewel miners impacted by the company’s bankruptcy filing on July 1 have decided to end their peaceful protest on Sept. 26.

Although miners are no longer blocking the tracks, the coal remains at the mine because of a motion from the department of labor. The motion blocks the coal from being moved, which the department of labor has claimed to be “hot goods.”

Federal officials believe an agreement can be reached as early as next week.

The adversary class-action lawsuit filed against Jeff Hoops Sr., Jeff Hoops Jr. and Lexington Coal also remains on hold until the Blackjewel bankruptcy is resolved.