CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Former Patriot Coal workers have begun applying for jobs with Blackhawk Mining, which is expected to take over six Patriot mining complexes in West Virginia this week.
Lexington, Kentucky-based Blackhawk won an auction Sept. 21 for a majority of Patriot’s assets, which include the Wells, Panther, Paint Creek, Rocklick, Kanawha Eagle and Midland Trail complexes.
Dozens of former Patriot workers came to the Charleston Civic Center on Monday as Blackhawk began the rehiring process. One worker, Mark Watts, told The Charleston Gazette-Mail (http://bit.ly/1MQwdit ) that he was told his hours would be reduced, and that a pay cut also is expected.
Watts said he was not sure how he or his co-workers could pay their bills, even while working.
“It’s only going to get worse. It’s not going to get any better,” Watts told the newspaper.
Blackhawk expects to rehire about 1,400 former Patriot employees and hopes to resume mining at the West Virginia mines as soon as possible, company Vice President Jesse Parrish told the newspaper.
Parrish said the acquisition of the West Virginia mines is expected to increase Blackhawk’s production this year from a forecasted 11 million tons of coal to about 20 million tons.
Scott Depot-based Patriot filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 12 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Virginia. The company had emerged from an earlier bankruptcy case in Missouri in December 2013.
Patriot’s asset sale to Blackhawk is part of its reorganization plan, which a bankruptcy judge approved on Oct. 9. The company had issued federally required layoff warning notices to about 2,000 workers earlier this month.
A disclosure statement filed with the reorganization plan said Patriot has faced several challenges since emerging from the previous bankruptcy, including slumping demand for coal, increased regulation, and reclamation and retiree health care obligations.
Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, http://wvgazettemail.com.