A group of attorneys representing about 1,700 former employees — including about 500 in Wyoming — have reached a class action settlement with the bankrupt Blackjewel, LLC, whose mines included the Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte in Campbell County.
However, the entire case is sealed, lead attorney Ned Pillersdorf told K2 Radio News on Wednesday.
“It goes to the judge for basically preliminary approval, then the details will be announced,” Pillersdorf said.
Those employees who do not wish to participate in the settlement may opt out of it and seek their own legal recourse, he said.
In the numerous legal actions in the Blackjewel case in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Southern West Virginia, there are references to ongoing negotiations and mediations but nothing specifically mentions a class action lawsuit, Pillersdorf said.
“I can’t talk about it,” he said. “All I can tell you is there have been lengthy negotiations and the proposed settlement is sealed.”
The Milton, West Virginia-based Blackjewel, LLC, and related companies filed for Chapter 11 business reorganization Bankruptcy Protection on July 1. That same day, they closed the two mines in Wyoming and about 30 mines and other operations in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia.
The employees were sent home.
A week later, Wyoming miner David Engelbrecht filed a class-action lawsuit against Blackjewel LLC, for the alleged illegal closing of its mines. He sued under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act for pay and benefits denied to him and others in the class of workers.
Whether Engelbrecht’s case is related to the one Pillersdorf discussed is unknown.
As the bankruptcy case evolved, Wyoming businesses such as Wyoming Machinery in Mills had their own disputes with Blackjewel.
In October, the U.S. Department of Labor has ordered Blackjewel to pay about 500 employees at Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte nearly $800,000 in back wages for the last week of June.
The mines have reopened. They are currently operated by Eagle Specialty Materials, a subsidiary of Alabama-based FM Coal.