weather icon Clear

Wyoming coal miners left wondering after bankruptcy filing

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Wyoming coal workers who were locked out of their jobs after Blackjewel LLC filed for bankruptcy protection are wondering whether they’ll ever be called back to work.

The West Virginia-based company has 580 employees at two open-pit mines in northeastern Wyoming, Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr, The Gillette News-Record reported Sunday.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on July 1. About 1,700 Blackjewel workers were locked out nationwide.

Melissa Peterson-Worden, who worked in a Blackjewel warehouse, said she and other workers were at first optimistic when company officials told them the bankruptcy would allow the business to reorganize and improve its position.

Peterson-Worden said workers were told a few hours later that something went wrong with financing the company was expecting, and they were told to go home.

“It was just total shock,” she said. “It happened that day, then the next day came and I just went on autopilot filling out resumes and job applications.”

Peterson-Worden said about 24 hours after the lockout, she was having lunch with her husband at a Gillette restaurant when the emotions of the past day caught up to her and she began to sob.

“It just hit me suddenly that never have I been at such a state of limbo in my life. There’s hope, but yet there’s no hope,” she said.

Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King said she is hoping for the best because losing the Blackjewel jobs would be a blow. The city’s population dipped by about 2,000 during a 2016 coal downturn as people left for work elsewhere.

The U.S. Census lists Gillette’s population at about 32,000.

“I just hope these people can find jobs here and don’t have to leave,” Carter-King said. “That’s a big concern, but I also realize they’ve got to go where they can get jobs.”

She also worried about the local businesses and contractors that do work for the mines, especially if they have to cut staff or close down because if the bankruptcy means they don’t get paid.

“Losing 600, 700 jobs has quite a trickle-down effect,” she said.

Wyoming Machinery Co. filed a motion with the bankruptcy court Friday asking to be let out of its contract to service heavy machinery for Blackjewel in Wyoming. The filing said if the contract is enforced, it could be obligated to keep working for the company without any guarantee of being paid.

Wyoming Machinery said it is already owed $5.9 million for services at the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines, and continuing to work for the Blackjewel could cost it up to $14,000 a day.

Republican state Sen. Michael Von Flatern of Gillette said he hopes the coal industry’s problems spur the Legislature to change the way mines are required to pay county taxes. The state requires the company to pay its state taxes monthly, but county taxes aren’t due until 18 months later.

Campbell County, which includes Gillette, could be out at least $52 million after two coal company bankruptcies this year.

Von Flatern said he emailed every state lawmaker this year about requiring monthly payments to counties, but no one responded.

“I’m a little disappointed in that,” he said. “This is a perfect opportunity to do something about it.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
Southern Nevada could set a new resale-price record in coming months.
The median sales price of previously owned single-family homes – the bulk of the market – was $310,000 in September. Before the economy crashed last decade, prices peaked in June 2006 at $315,000, according to the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors.(Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Walmart container park in Henderson - VIDEO
Henderson could be home to a container park associated with a Walmart Inc. initiative. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recession lessons could help Las Vegas face next slump - VIDEO
While the last economic downturn had a dramatic impact on local casinos, most experts expect the industry will be better able to weather the storm during the next recession. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM and victims of Oct. 1 reach settlement agreement - VIDEO
MGM Resorts International and lawyers representing potentially thousands of victims of the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip have reached a tentative settlement of between $735 million and $800 million. (Mat Luschek /Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Live music and EDM dominate the night on day 2 of A’Le’Innstock
After sunset bands rocked the crowds at A’Le’Innstock in Rachel, Nevada on the second night of the event.
iPhone 11 Release
Local Las Vegas long time Apple product consumer shares her excitement for the new iPhone 11 release Downtown Summerlin. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lihi Levin talks about a mobil app Dropit - VIDEO
Lihi Levin, regional manager at Dropit Shopping, talks about a mobil app Dropit. The app lets customers leave their shopping bags at a store then have them delivered the same day to their home or hotel so they can shop without carrying multiple bags all day. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
North Las Vegas company prepares for Mars - VIDEO
Robert Bigelow and his Bigelow Aerospace manufacturing facility played host to eight NASA astronauts and 60 engineers this week getting to know the company’s B330 autonomous, expandable space station. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas developer talks about a new apartment complex called “the yoU”
Frank Marretti lll, founder of G2 Capital Development, talks about his new apartment complex called “the yoU” near UNLV. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Steel cables will hoist roof at Allegiant Stadium - VIDEO
Stainless steel cables are being put into place at Allegiant Stadium to begin the process of putting the roof on the 65,000-seat stadium in Las Vegas. Stadium Chief Operating Officer Don Webb explains how the cables will be used to get the roof put on the future home of the Raiders and UNLV football. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The last remaining Sigma Derby game in Las Vegas
Derek Stevens, owner of the D Las Vegas, talks about the last remaining Sigma Derby horse racing game in Las Vegas inside his casino floor. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich Review
Janine Blake of Las Vegas gives her review of the new Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich at the restaurant’s location on west Bonanza Road on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019,
SuperZoo 2019 takes over Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas
SuperZoo 2019 show for pet retailers brought pet products of all description to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MSG Sphere at The Venetian to cost $1.2B plus
Scheduled to open in 2021, it is expected to be busier than Madison Square Garden in New York. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Favorite products from SuperZoo 2019
Some of the fun and interesting pet products on display at the SuperZoo in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MAGIC Convention Day 3
The fashion trade show MAGIC, held Monday through Wednesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MAGIC Las Vegas - Day One
The biannual MAGIC convention show opened Monday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant celebrates naming deal with tailgate party
Allegiant Air employees celebrate with a tailgate party after the company’s naming deal with the Raiders for the new Las Vegas stadium.
Nevada's sportsbook operators welcome competition
Sportsbook operators from near and far are looking to get into in the established Nevada market, experts say. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Get a first look of MSG Sphere construction in Las Vegas
Representatives of The Madison Square Garden Company give the first glimpse of progress Tuesday of the under-construction MSG Sphere — a first-of-its-kind performance venue with high-tech audio and visual capabilities.
There's a new place to play board games in Las Vegas
Matt Smiciklas, co-owner of Boarding School Games, talks about the new Las Vegas business that he co-owns with Emily Labejof. Dedicated tabletop gamers can choose from more than 500 games to play for free in-store. The doors open to the public Saturday, July 20, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Renovations at the STRAT
Analysts say the $140 million renovation project at The STRAT, formerly the known as the Stratosphere, could help the hotel-casino compete with the evolving north side of the Las Vegas Strip. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
More than 27K expected for top gaming industry trade show

The Global Gaming Expo — known in the industry as G2E — opens its doors Monday for a four-day event filled with panels, keynote speeches and a massive trade show.

Nevada Donor Network taps Sonja Barlow for lead role

Nevada Donor Network has named Sonja Barlow director of donation services to oversee donation service operations and develop the company’s strategic plans as part of the corporate leadership team

Boeing, FAA share blame in certification of the 737 Max, report says

Boeing did not fully explain to federal regulators an automated flight system featured in its new 737 Max, and those regulators didn’t have the capability to effectively analyze much of what Boeing did share about the plane.