ENGLEWOOD, CO. | KEMMERER, WY. – Westmoreland Coal Company, the oldest independent coal company in the United States, which operates surface and underground coal mines across the United States and in Canada, has filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. as part of a restructuring agreement with a group of lenders.
Westmoreland Coal operates the Kemmerer Mine, a 13,400-acre surface mine complex located in Southwest Wyoming, in addition to mines in located in Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, North Dakota and Texas. The coal from Kemmerer’s mine feeds Pacificorp’s Naughton coal-fired power plant via overland conveyor, as well as Trona mines to the east. As of June 2018, the Kemmerer mine employed 286 workers.
The Englewood, Colorado-based coal firm said in a statement that re-structuring wouldn’t interrupt production and that staff reductions were not expected as part of the process. The company noted that Westmoreland’s Canada mines will not be part of the bankruptcy filing.
Looking forward, the company expects it’s Montana mines to see a drop in deamnd when two of four Colstrip power plant units cease operations within the next four years. They also estimate their San Juan mine in New Mexico will experience a decline, when the power plant they serve explores options to eliminate or cut coal useage earlier than expected.
According to the recent filing, Westmoreland Coal has $770 million in assets and $1.4 billion in debt. The company also owes one of it’s creditors, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, nearly $2 million in royalties.
Conservation groups have called on Westmoreland to ensure it has enough money to cover reclaimation and severance pay, if it ceases operations, and company officials have stated previously that they are fully bonded to cover any future reclamation work, if it is needed at it’s mine locations.
Coal companies have struggled recently with a steep drop in demand for coal as a result of cheaper natuural gas prices and a renewed push for renewable energy sources.
With this filing, Westmoreland Coal will become the fourth major coal company to file for bankruptcy within the last three years, joining the likes of Peabody Energy Corp., Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources.