Blackjewel-Coal 01

Coal mining in Buchanan County, Virginia: As Blackjewel LLC goes through bankruptcy proceedings, employees reporting that work has halted and recent paychecks are bouncing are left with few answers.

Coal producer Blackjewel LLC is looking for potential buyers for its assets, according to a status report filed Tuesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

The company listed 27 “principal assets” — including 10 facilities in Virginia — when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 1. As the bankruptcy case proceeds, work has halted at its facilities, which employed nearly 1,700 in Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Company advisers have reached out to more than 20 parties “to solicit interest in acquiring the Debtors’ assets with respect to their eastern and western operations,” the update reads. So far, eight parties “have signed non-disclosure agreements … and are actively engaged in conducting due diligence,” the company’s attorneys said.

The court approved two short-term loans in recent weeks to keep Blackjewel afloat, but the company has yet to secure long-term financing that would allow it to fully restore operations at its sites.

According to the update, the company is currently looking at stalking horse bids, which would set a minimum bid for an auction of the company’s assets.

“While the Debtors have not finalized the sale terms for the various stalking horse bids being negotiated, the parties with which the Debtors are engaged have expressed interest in assets in the Debtors’ eastern and western operations,” Blackjewel’s attorneys said in the update.

The update did not specify which assets could be sold off. The company indicated more filings are expected to be made with the court this week.

Although 140 workers have returned to work across the company’s operations, most are still laid off. The company has nearly 500 workers in Virginia, and a number of them haven’t been paid for work completed prior to the bankruptcy filing, creating financial hardships when paychecks from the end of June bounced. Many of the affected employees have filed for unemployment and are starting to look for new jobs.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office announced Wednesday that it has designated dispute resolution experts to mediate issues Blackjewel employees may be having as a result of the bankruptcy, like overdraft fees, rent and child care payments. The office set up an email employees can contact for help with accessing the free resources at blackjewel@oag.state.va.us.

“The sudden and haphazard bankruptcy of Blackjewel left nearly 500 Virginians without the paychecks they have earned, leading many to scramble for a way to pay their bills, provide for their families, and make ends meet,” Herring said in a news release. “I’m hoping the dispute resolution experts in my office will be able to help mediate and resolve any problems these workers have encountered as a result of Blackjewel’s conduct.”

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