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Coal producer Blackjewel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday.
Hours later the firm’s lawyer warned the company could be forced to liquidate after CEO Jeff A. Hoops Sr.’s bank froze funds likely needed to restructure the business.
“It’s frankly a disaster,” Blackjewel lawyer Stephen Lerner said at a hearing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Charleston, W.Va., per the Wall Street Journal.
The West Virginian firm had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a filing estimating liabilities upward of $500 million, and assets of between $100 million to $500 million on Monday.
The firm also reportedly shut down two coal mines in Wyoming and sent 700 workers home Monday.
Per the Journal, Blackjewel is the fifth coal company to file for bankruptcy this year, despite President Donald Trump’s attempts to scale back regulation that could hurt the industry. In May for instance, the country’s third largest coal company, Cloud Peak Energy, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In the near term though, coal mining jobs have held steady under Trump, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics: the number of coal workers rose from 50,500 in Nov. 2016 to 52,900 (preliminary) in May 2019. The rise has largely been attributed to demand from Europe and Asia—though overall demand has been steadily falling with exports down 7.4% in first quarter of 2019 year-over-year.
But in the long term, the trend of falling coal jobs expected to continue as the commodity comes under pressure against cheaper options such as natural gas.
“I can’t overstate the extreme competition between coal and natural gas,” Hans Daniels, CEO of Doyle Trading Consultants said last year.
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