BILLINGS – With its bankruptcy declaration Tuesday morning, Westmoreland Coal became the fourth major coal company to file for bankruptcy in the past three years.
The Denver-based company joins Peabody Coal, Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources, who have all filed for bankruptcy protection in recent years as coal prices remained stubbornly low amid sluggish demand. Westmoreland owes $1.4 billion to creditors and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Houston.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy means that a company is seeking to reorganize and continue operating. Company officials said Tuesday that they expect no interruptions of operations nor any staff reductions.
“Westmoreland has developed a plan with its creditors to allow operations tocontinuee as usual -while positioning the company for long-term success,” interim CEO Michael Hutchinson said in a statement.
Westmoreland owns three Montana mines: the Rosebud mine at Colstrip, a part of the Absaloka Mine near Hardin and the Savage Mine at the Montana/North Dakota border.
Other are less optimistic of Westmoreland’s long-term success.
“It’s time to get serious about economic transition for Montana’s coal communities, not more empty promises. We are at a significant risk of being left behind as the economy shifts towards demanding clean power,” said Mike Scott, a Billings-based representative of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
Reporting by Jay Kohn, MTN News