One of America’s oldest coal mining companies filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday, under the weight of $1.4 billion in debt, according to The Associated Press — the fourth major coal company to do so in the past three years.
> Englewood, Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Co. filed for voluntary Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston as part of a restructuring agreement with an unnamed group of lenders.
> Westmoreland, which operates mines across the U.S. and Canada, is the fourth major coal company to file for bankruptcy in the past three years, joining Peabody Energy Corp., Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources.
> Westmoreland was incorporated in 1854 in Pennsylvania. It has coal mines in Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Ohio, North Dakota and Texas, and a coal-fired power plant in North Carolina.
Company officials said in a statement that operations will not be interrupted and they do not expect layoffs to occur as a result of the filing.
> “After months of thoughtful and productive conversations with our creditors, we have developed a plan that allows Westmoreland to operate as usual while positioning Westmoreland for long-term success,” interim CEO Michael Hutchinson said in the statement.
The coal industry has struggled for years as it is unable to compete with cheap natural gas or escape the rise of renewable energy sources.
The AP reported that no new coal mines are being built in the U.S., and China and India — two of the largest coal consumers — have canceled projects as they endeavor to decrease air pollution.
> In response to the bankruptcy filing, conservation groups renewed calls for Westmoreland to ensure it has enough money in reserve to clean up its mines and pay severance to workers if it ceases operations.
> “Nothing can stop America’s shift away from coal and toward clean energy, but the transition should be managed to ensure workers are treated with respect and that vital environmental obligations are honored,” said Mary Anne Hitt of the Sierra Club.
> Westmoreland officials have previously said the company is fully bonded to cover future reclamation work at its mines.