The immediate future remains unclear for employees of a coal company that has shut down operations as it pursues bankruptcy protection.
Blackjewel LLC miners in Virginia and across the mountain in Harlan County, Ky., reportedly saw their late June paychecks get pulled from their bank accounts early last week.
Meanwhile, according to Virginia Employment Commission Regional Rapid Response Coordinator Beckie Cox, many miners had gone Monday to VEC’s Career Works Center in Richlands seeking assistance.
“I am told that 480 employees were laid off due to current bankruptcy proceedings,” Cox wrote in a Monday afternoon email.
That’s the total number of employees that Blackjewel and related company Revelation Energy had in Virginia as of 2018, according to the state Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.
Information could not be obtained Monday as to whether laid-off workers are showing up at VEC’s Norton office.
According to published reports, Blackjewel confirmed during a bankruptcy court hearing Saturday that miners whose paychecks were clawed back will not be reimbursed until the company can resume normal operations.
An attorney for Blackjewel reportedly told the court that the company hopes to pin down sufficient financing in coming days to bring some employees back to work.
The attorney reportedly said when the late June paychecks went out, Blackjewel expected to secure sufficient financing to cover the checks by the time it filed for Chapter 11 protection on July 1. But that financing proposal did not materialize.
Since then, according to published reports, the company has secured a loan for $5 million — partly on the condition that former chief executive officer Jeff Hoops step down. However, the bankruptcy judge’s order to approve the funding does not require spending any of it to reimburse employees.
Blackjewel and Revelation Energy employ more than 1,000 people in Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia.
The companies have operations near coal camps surrounding Appalachia and in Lee, Russell and Buchanan counties. Also, the company has a significant presence across Black Mountain in Harlan County, Ky.
The two companies hold 79 mine permits in Virginia, according to the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.