On 10 July, Blackjewel, L.L.C. (Blackjewel) confirmed that the basic operations aimed at protecting the safety and security of its coal mines in Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming have resumed, allowing more than 140 employees to return to work following the initial suspension of its operations on 1 July 2019.
Employees were initially sent home after a number of unexpected disputes arose between the company and its lenders, which left the company unable to obtain the anticipated loan it had arranged in relation to its restructuring under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, which commenced on 1 July 2019. Blackjewel has since secured approval of US$5 million in debtor-in-possession bridge financing, which has allowed the company to bring back the first wave of employees who are crucial to ensuring the safety of its mines and equipment while it works towards a longer-term solution. All the employees returning to work have or will be paid for time worked prior to the company's Chapter 11 filing, and the company fully intends to pay these employees for all hours worked moving forward. The company's ability to bring more employees back to work is contingent upon its ability to secure additional financing, which remains the top priority for the management team.
Specifically, the status of payments made to employees is as follows:
- Wyoming employees received cashier's checks in the amount owed to them as part of their regular pay cycle on 28 June 2019, after the company learned that the usual electronic transfers used to pay these employees had been blocked. While the process of cashing the cashier's checks was initially more complicated than expected, all of these checks are valid and should now be able to be cashed at any local bank.
- Wyoming employees who have been called back to work were paid on 8 July 2019, via the usual electronic funds transfer for the remaining amounts owed to them for time worked prior to the Chapter 11 filing. The company expects to pay returning Wyoming employees according to its usual schedule and process moving forward.
- Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia employees who have returned to work have been issued hard-copy checks for time worked prior to the Chapter 11 filing as these locations do not have a pre-existing system for electronic fund transfers. The funds are available for these checks to be deposited. However, some employees have reported issues with their local banks honoring the checks. Blackjewel is working as quickly as possible to address these issues, and its primary bank, United Bank, has posted a public letter on the company's restructuring website encouraging local banks to "consider such checks for deposit, subject to [such] bank confirming availability of funds through customary check-clearing processes."
Blackjewel employees currently holding checks issued by the company, as well as local banks presented with Blackjewel checks, should contact the Blackjewel restructuring hotline at (844) 234-1462 with any questions. The company will respond as quickly as possible to address any issues you may be experiencing.
"Management – and everyone involved in Blackjewel's Chapter 11 case – understands that every day that passes adds to the hardship our employees and their families are experiencing, and we want to emphasise the urgency with which we are approaching this situation," said David Beckman, Interim CEO of Blackjewel.
"We are doing everything possible to get our employees back to work and ensure they are able to deposit their paychecks as quickly as possible."Additional information about Blackjewel's Chapter 11 case, including periodic employee updates and legal filings, is available via the company's restructuring website, https://cases.primeclerk.com/blackjewel/.
Squire Patton Boggs is serving as legal advisor to Blackjewel, FTI Consulting has been retained as Chief Restructuring Officer and financial advisor, and Jefferies LLC is serving as the company's investment banker.
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcoal.com/mining/12072019/blackjewel-restarts-operations-in-kentucky-virginia-west-virginia-and-wyoming/