For the second time in as many weeks another coal producer has announced it is closing a number of its local underground mining operations as well as two of its preparation plants.
The most recent closures are located in Mingo and Logan counties in West Virginia and are being undertaken by Kentucky-based Blackhawk Mining LLC.
The latest announcement comes on the heels of bankrupt Cambrian Coal LLC. Immediately furloughing an estimated 200 or more of its employees from the company’s Premier Elkhorn subsidiary at Myra last week as a result of the Sept. 27 sale of Premier Elkhorn to a West Virginia company — Pristine Clean Energy, LLC.
In a statement released Tuesday by its corporate office in Lexington, Blackhawk officials said the closures have resulted in the immediate issuance of Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notices (WARN) to 342 employees who will be affected by the company’s cease of operations at these West Virginia locations.
The closing operations, the statement said, include the Washington Underground Mine, the Muddy Bridge Underground Mine, the Buffalo Underground Mine, and the Franco Preparation Plant and Loadout in Logan County, along with the Mingo 1 Preparation Plant and the Mingo 2 (Scaggs) Loadout in Mingo County.
The company said it will also be idling operations at the No. 8 Underground Mine, which is a contract mining operation also in Mingo County.
“Each affected employee will be encouraged to apply for open positions elsewhere in the company,” the statement said.
After producing approximately 1.3 million tons of metallurgical coal in 2018 for both national and international coke manufacturers and steel producers, Blackhawk officials said “recent weakness in global coal markets, and the corresponding drop in prices to three-year lows, is the reason for the company’s decision.”
Permanent workforce reductions resulting from the closures and issuance of WARN notifications are anticipated to take effect in December, mining officials said.
In an attempt to shore up the company’s finances, in July Blackhawk filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.
The company subsequently announced in a press release that it had reached an agreement with more than 90 percent of its lenders on the terms of a financial restructuring.
Aside from the West Virginia operations, Blackhawk is also the owner of the Hazard-based Blue Diamond Coal Company, which has several active and inactive operations in Perry and surrounding counties.