CHARLESTON — On Tuesday, a federal judge approved Contura Energy's bid for three other mines owned by Blackjewel coal company, according to a report by The Associated Press.
A Blackjewel spokesman told the AP that U.S. District Judge Frank Volk in West Virginia approved the sale Tuesday. The deal still needs the federal government's approval before it is finalized.
Buyers have put money toward paying some of the roughly $11.8 million in pay and benefits due miners in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia, Ohio Valley Resource reported.
"That won't pay off all of the wages that are due, but it'll be a good down payment," labor attorney Sam Petsonk told the network. He is representing miners from Blackjewel's eastern division.
The auction came after miners who said they hadn't been paid by Blackjewel recently blocked the transport of coal along train tracks near Cumberland, Kentucky.
Contura has said it wants to reopen and rehire staffers from Blackjewel's Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines in Wyoming, but still needs to determine employment decisions at the Pax Surface Mine in West Virginia.
A Contura spokesman declined to comment Tuesday pending the federal government's approval. The Tennessee-based company had bid nearly $34 million for the three mines.
The judge also approved bids for several other Blackjewel mines in the two-day sales hearing.
Knoxville, Tennessee-based Kopper Glo Mining LLC announced Tuesday on its Facebook page that it was the successful bidder for the bankrupt Blackjewel LLC assets in Southeast Kentucky known as the Black Mountain and Lone Mountain Operations, located in Harlan and Letcher counties.
The post added that the company plans to restart certain operations and is confident this plan will bring jobs back to many of the former Blackjewel employees. It also stated that Kopper Glo is committed to funding a portion of the back wages due to the employees.
The company will pay $450,000 of the $2.9 million miners are owed, as well as $550,000 during the next two years.
In the post, the company's president, Hunter Hobson, and its chief operating officer, Keith Dyke, both expressed their excitement and enthusiasm in the acquisition.
"The goal of the new management group is to operate the Lone and Black Mountain mines and associated prep plants in the safest and most responsible way possible," the post reads. "The Black and Lone Mountain complexes consist of three coal preparation plants with the capability to process 1,000 tons per hour each, three unit train rail loading facilities, as well as coal reserves to ensure mining for many years."
Kopper Glo has been in operation since 1958.
The company has been operated by the present management group since 2007, according to the Facebook post.
"The Lone Mountain and Black Mountain facilities and reserves are some of the few remaining premium coal properties in the United States and are located in an area with incredibly skilled coal miners and individuals with a strong passion and conviction for the coal industry. We are excited to work with the communities surrounding these operations to restore these operations to their fullest potential," Dyke said in the post.
"The Lone and Black Mountain properties possess some of the highest quality coals for the metallurgical and industrial markets in the Untied States. The coal produced from these operations has been an extremely important part of the development of this country, and these operations will continue to contribute to the economic growth of the communities where they are located. We are committed to bring as many people back to work as quickly as possible," Hobson said in the post.
Blackjewel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection July 1.