CASPER, Wyo. — A coal company may sell two large Wyoming mines separately from one in West Virginia, a U.S. bankruptcy court has ruled in a development that added uncertainty to the possibility that the Wyoming mines might reopen soon.

Bristol, Tennessee-based Contura Energy originally sought to buy all three mines from Milton, West Virginia-based Blackjewel in a deal that has been held up while U.S. officials seek payment of federal royalties. Contura would have paid $9.7 million for the Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines in Wyoming and Pax Surface Mine in West Virginia.

The court in West Virginia on Wednesday approved a deal in which Contura would pay $1.1 million to finalize sale of the West Virginia mine, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.

Federal records show no production at the West Virginia mine since 2006.

The huge Wyoming open-pit mines ranked among the top six in the U.S. for production before Blackjewel declared bankruptcy and shut them down July 1.

The sale changes add uncertainty for the many of the 600 or so Wyoming workers furloughed since the bankruptcy announcement. Contura, which previously owned the Wyoming mines and still holds their state mining permits, planned to reopen them once the original purchase deal went through.

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