Most of the retired miners under the jurisdiction of Patriot Coal today worked most of their careers for either Peabody Energy or Arch Coal -- companies whose union mining operations became part of Patriot after it was created.
Patriot Coal was founded in 2007 when Peabody Energy sold all its union operations east of the Mississippi to the newly created company. In 2008, Patriot bought Magnum Coal, a company that had taken over union mines previously operated by Arch Coal.
Those two deals, the UMW argues, handed Patriot Coal far more liabilities than assets. Today, Patriot is paying many benefits to 23,000 UMW retirees and dependents -- many of whom never worked for Patriot.
The cost of paying those long-term retirement and health benefits was a major factor forcing Patriot to file for bankruptcy protection.
Most political leaders, and West Virginia Coal Association officials, withheld comment Monday until more details of the settlement became apparent. But Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said, "I applaud the negotiators at Patriot and the UMWA for their efforts that led to today's announcement.
"Throughout this difficult process, I encouraged both parties to work toward an agreement that would be fair to miners and retirees, and would allow Patriot to preserve thousands of West Virginia jobs. I am pleased that the leadership of the UMWA and Patriot have reached an agreement," Capito said.
The West Virginia Coal Association had no immediate comment on the announcement.
Today, Patriot operates 11 active mining complexes from West Virginia and Kentucky west to the Illinois Basin. Patriot ships its coal to domestic and international electric power companies, as well as to metallurgical coal customers.
The company controls about 1.8 billion tons of unmined coal reserves.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.