HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — A federal hearing adjourned Thursday without a decision on a bidding process proposed for mines owned by a bankrupt West Virginia-based coal company.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Frank Volk told the parties in federal court in Huntington the emergency hearing would resume Friday morning in Charleston.
Volk heard nearly two hours of arguments from Blackjewel LLC attorney Stephen Lerner as well as objections from attorneys representing the federal government.
At the end of the hearing, Volks said he wanted to hear objections from others as well.
Lerner said the bidding process is Blackjewel’s “only and last and best hope.”
Bristol, Tennessee-based Contura Energy said in a news release that it has offered $20.6 million as the stalking horse bidder for three mines owned by Milton-based Blackjewel. The purchase could put hundreds back to work at the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines in Wyoming and Pax Surface Mine in West Virginia. They’ve been closed since Blackjewel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection July 1.
According to Lerner, if other qualifying bids are made by a July 31 deadline, an auction would be held on Aug 1. Lerner said any party could bid on any combination of Blackjewel’s assets.
Lerner called it a “very expedited process” and one that “works under the circumstances. Is it perfect? No. (But) we can save a lot of people’s jobs.”
Contura sold the Wyoming mines to Blackjewel in 2017. They were the among the top-producing coal mines in the U.S.
According to Contura, it would provide an $8.1 million deposit toward the purchase to be applied to cash-strapped Blackjewel’s expenses. Contura would acquire the assets without assuming Blackwater’s liens.
Government attorney Fred Westfall said being unable to collect tax liens as well as fines assessed by federal mine regulators “defeats the regulatory process.”
Westfall also said the bidding process time frame was “too short and that Blackjewel’s detailed asset and liability information was lacking.
“We have operated in the dark,” Westfall said. “We need that information.”