Westmoreland

A sign for the Kemmerer mine's load-out station
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

Westmoreland's Kemmerer coal mine will soon have new owners. The debtors behind the recently bankrupt company will take over and hire a new operator for the mine.

Logo
Westmoreland Coal Company

Participants on a not-yet-public call are reporting that Virginia billionaire Tom Clarke has dropped out as the buyer for Westmoreland's Kemmerer mine. The status conference call was held before a bankruptcy judge April 30 to address issues related to the mine's sale.

United Mine Workers of America logo
United Mine Workers of America

Retirees of the Kemmerer Coal Mine won't be getting their expected health-care benefits, but the United Mine Workers of America aren't giving up. 

Donlin Recano

Two years ago, Jim Bills retired from the Kemmerer mine in Southwestern Wyoming.

"After spending seven years in the Air Force, I spent 36 years with Westmoreland coal," he said.

Bills worked as a laborer, truck driver, and driller. His son works there now, too. Bills recalls watching retirees taken care of year-after-year. He was excited when his time finally came.

Comparison of benefits treatment in bankruptcies
Peter Morgan / Sierra Club

Filings from Westmoreland show it’s taking a different approach to its financial obligations from other recently bankrupt coal companies. The coal company is seeking to default on nearly $400 million owed in pension funds, black lung claims and retiree healthcare benefits. Three other coal companies, Alpha, Peabody and Arch all passed along those obligations to re-organization debtors with value reduced in some cases.

Gary Kohn, the Chief Financial Officer of Westmoreland Coal Company, has announced his resignation effective January 4 of 2019. In a statement released by the company, he's leaving for personal reasons.

As the demand for coal continues to decline in the U.S., two companies with mines in Montana and Wyoming are saving money by cutting worker benefits.

OTCMKTS: WLBAQ

In southwest Wyoming, the Kemmerer coal mine is the largest contributor of tax revenue to Lincoln County and a big employer. It's owned by Westmoreland Coal Company, which has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It's one of the largest and oldest coal producers on the continent and some think it's another sign coal markets are not bouncing back, despite the Trump administration's efforts.

Westmoreland Coal

Westmoreland Coal Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday. It operates in five states, including Wyoming, with a large mine near Kemmerer employing around 280 people. The company’s debt has skyrocketed in recent years, and it’s lost nearly all of its share price value.

A major U.S. coal producer filed for bankruptcy Tuesday morning.

Westmoreland Coal Company operates five mines in Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico. They employ more than a thousand people.

Map of Westmoreland's assets from its 10K filing
Westmoreland Coal Company

The Western Organization of Resource Councils, WORC, believes a coal company that could soon face bankruptcy may not have sufficient funds to pay for mine clean-up costs. A spokeswoman for Westmoreland Coal Company said they are, however, in full compliance with bonding and reclamation regulations.

A Colorado company has announced a $193 million deal to buy a coal mine in western Wyoming from Chevron
Mining Inc.

Chevron has been getting out of the coal industry and the Kemmerer mine is among its last coal assets. The  mine produces 4.7 million tons of coal a year.

The buyer is Englewood, Colo.-based Westmoreland Coal Co. The deal announced Tuesday includes a purchase price of $179 million plus $14 million in working capital.