Blackjewel makes last-ditch motion for emergency funding

GILLETTE — Blackjewel LLC President and CEO Jeff Hoops is offering to front the money to keep his bankrupt coal mining operations running if his money is secured as senior priority to be paid back during Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

It’s a last-ditch attempt to salvage the company’s Chapter 11 filing after being denied a $20 million credit line to keep its coal mining operations running, including the Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines in Campbell County, which combined to produced about 35.5 million tons of coal in 2018.

Without immediate court approval, Blackjewel may “have no choice but to convert these cases to Chapter 7,” says a motion filed Tuesday afternoon with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Instead of a reorganization, Chapter 7 is a straight liquidation of the business.

“If that occurs, untold amounts of value of (Blackjewel’s) assets and estates will be destroyed and more than 1,700 people will be out of work,” the motion says. “It is imperative that the revised financing proposal be heard today, if at all possible, if the Debtors are to continue as a going concern.”

The court considered the motion for an expedited hearing Tuesday afternoon. Results of the motion were not immediately available. 

The motion comes a day removed from Blackjewel LLC first filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, then hours later abruptly shutting down operations and locking out its mines when emergency funding was unavailable.

That immediately put 580 Campbell County coal mine workers out of jobs, 304 at Eagle Butte and 276 at Belle Ayr, according to the latest filings with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.