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Bankruptcies by 2 coal firms may hurt many Letcher miners

Two of the largest coal companies left in Kentucky, both with operations in Letcher County, have filed for federal bankruptcy protection.

Revelation Energy, which operates mines in the Cumberland River area, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday along with its sister company Blackjewel LLC. The companies immediately shut down at least some of their mines in eastern Kentucky and in the Powder River area of Wyoming. Both are based in West Virginia, but have office addresses at Lackey in Floyd County. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Revelation employed about 1,100 people in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. It’s not clear how many people will be affected here. According to the Kentucky Office of Energy Policy, only 145 people were employed in the coal industry in Letcher County when the quarter ended in May.

Revelation said its mines will remain closed at least two weeks.

The Revelation/Blackjewel bankruptcy is the second by a large coal company in as many weeks.

Cambrian Coal, which owns Premier- Elkhorn Coal, Pike-Letcher Land Company, and Raven Rock Development, as well as others, and operates mines around Jenkins and Dorton also filed for federal bankruptcy protection. It said in a release that it intends to keep its mines open and has received permission from a U.S. Bankruptcy Court to continue to pay wages. Cambrian, a subsidiary of Booth Energy Group, changed its address from Debord, in Martin County, to Belcher, in Pike County, two days before the June 16 bankruptcy filing.

Both Cambrian and Revelation filed for Chapter 11, which allows court-ordered reorganization.

According to the Herald Leader, Revelation and Blackjewel owe $60 million to the U.S. Department of the Interior, another $6 million to the Kentucky State Treasury, and at least $10 million to private creditors in Kentucky.

The newspaper reported that Revelation had 134 federal notices of non-compliance, citing 259 violations during 2017 and 2018. The closest company in the number of citations was Premier-Elkhorn, a division of Cambrian, with 71 rule violations alleged by federal mine inspectors.

The companies blamed the bankruptcies on market forces and competition from natural gas. Revelation also blamed increasingly strict regulations.

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