Virginia miners asking the state for help after Blackjewel files for bankruptcy

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RICHLANDS, VA (WJHL)- Virginia miners are still searching for answers and asking the state for help after Blackjewel LLC filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

On July 1 Blackjewel Coal Company filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection. Over 1,700 miners who worked for the company across the country were left without jobs and some with empty bank accounts.

Blackjewel and Revelation Energy have 32 mines and other mining facilities spanning from Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Related: Revelation Energy, Blackjewel file Chapter 11

On Monday, July 8 hundreds of miners who worked in Kentucky traveled to Harlan County, KY to seek government assistance. However, Virginia miners say they’re still looking for answers.

“It’s been a big financial disaster for everyone,” said Josiah Williams. He worked for Blackjewel’s D 17 mine in Bacannan County, VA.

He said his family was on vacation with his coworkers family when the news that Blackjewel filed for bankruptcy was announced.

The Underwoods said they came back to find their bank account in the negatives because money was withdrawn from their accounts by Blackjewel.

“Coming back from vacation thinking we’re going to have a payday for today and not have it and it’s just really stressful. We owe the bank almost three thousand dollars. For a lot of people, it’s an issue of even having gas money to go anywhere right now,” said Heather Underwood, whose husband has worked for the mining company.

Virginia House Delegate Terry Kilgore apologized for the late reaction from Virginia in helping their miners.

“We are a little behind. We apologize for that, but we’ve been trying to get everything together. We contacted our Department of Labor to see what the Department of Labor can do, and they started working with the Virginia Employment Commission to try to engage the Rapid Response Team,” said Kilgore.

The Rapid Response Team will be holding several meetings in Virginia on Wednesday in Richlands, Norton, and St. Charles Virginia offering job opportunities and workforce training.

“They’re going to help our workers who received those bad checks from Blackjewl to fill out those claim forms that they’ll need for the bankruptcy court. I have not been in contact with Blackjewel. All of us think the way that they handled this was not at all good for our economy for here in Virginia, in Kentucky, or West Virginia. The first thing we’re trying to do is get some help and assistance out there, and I’m sure there will be investigations ongoing,” said Kilgore.

In the meantime, Virginia is waving the weeklong wait time to file for unemployment for Blackjewel employees.

Underwood and other miners upset they were even put into this situation,

“How are you going to feed your kids? Are you going to have electricity for your kids?”

She says that Social Services has reached out to her helping with food and necessities, but her message to Blackjewel is,

“You know for him to say he’s suffering more than anybody is just a joke.”

Related: Coal CEO to resign as part of company’s bankruptcy deal

Another miner sending us the following message.

My name is Richard Bradley Hall. I’m a employee for Blackjewel LLC at the D17 mine. To my knowledge, there are around 1,800 men and women being impacted from this horrific company. Though our story seems to be coming to light from a number of national headline news media’s. We are still faced with no ways to provide for our family’s and loved ones. I, myself have losses exceeding $5,000+ thus far. Our 401K money has been taking from us without consent. Money’s paid by us for our medical coverage has not been paid for 6+ weeks. Payroll checks have bounced, due to moneys taking out of the payroll account after checks were issued. And it seems, this wicked company is getting away with all of this, dispute breaking so many federal laws. I am a 22 year experienced coal miner. I have five children I am trying to raise in one of the most dangerous professions known to the area. I pray for help from God. Seems no one else is willing to help us get what is rightfully ours. When one gives an honest shifts work, one should receive an honest wage for doing so. Employees in the state of Wyoming seem to be getting paid, while we employees of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia are being swept under the rug with no way of supporting our family’s. 

Richard Bradley Hall

Related: Coal miners seek answers after paychecks bounce, mines suddenly close

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