Black Jewel West, LLC announced late yesterday it has ceased operations at it’s Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines. In a text message obtained by Basin Radio, sent to several employees shortly before three pm by someone inside the plant employees are advised, ‘the chapter 11 bankruptcy didn’t get approved,’ referring to Black Jewel’s recent attempt to secure 20 million dollars in funding to extend operations. The text went on to tell employees, ‘ we are ceasing operations and sending everybody home.’
Several men stood just outside the blocked gate at Black Jewel’s, Belle Ayr mine on Bishop Road in Gillette late yesterday afternoon having little idea as to what was going on and why they were not being allowed into work. A lone Campbell County Sheriff’s Deputy stationed at the gate provided the only answers the men could get. ‘The mines closed,’ he said. ‘Both of them,’ referring to Black Jewel’s other mine at the north end of town, Eagle Butte.
One of the main concerns being expressed by the spouses of the men who abruptly lost their jobs yesterday was if the paychecks they were given were going to be any good. Some it seems were paid out with cashier’s checks. Still, some were suggesting their checks had been deposited, but had not yet cleared the bank. With the first of the month and bills coming due not knowing if you’re going to keep the lights on this month only adds to the mounting stress and frustration.
To recap, what we know so far:
600 layoffs total including both mines, Belle Ayr & Eagle Butte. Black Jewell filed chapter 11 – Employees had no knowledge Black Jewel’s bankruptcy proposal had been rejected consequently denying the company of $20 million dollars in emergency funding to extend it’s operations.
The company did not hold the usual 1st day hearing, which refers to a hearing during which the court considers whether to accept the debtor’s reorganization plan. It had been scheduled, but was subsequently cancelled. A ‘First Day Hearing’ may be scheduled for Tuesday, 07/02
The state of Wyoming is in contact with local officials to assess the situation.
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality is scheduled to assess the environmental aspects of the closures. The Campbell County Sheriff’s Office will assist in this effort.
Wyoming Department of Workforce Services will be in town Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019 at the campus of Gillette College.
BNSF Railroad has been contacted and apprised of the situation.
Campbell County Commission Chairmen, Rusty Bell will be a guest with Shane McBryde Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019 on KIML 1270 AM & 106.7 FM to further discuss the latest developments.