CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A judge in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Louis approved Tuesday afternoon the contract negotiated between the United Mine Workers of America and Patriot Coal, which had filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2012.
UMWA President Cecil Roberts said, "I am pleased that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States has approved the settlement we worked long and hard to reach with Patriot Coal.
"The terms and conditions of this settlement are a significant improvement over the company's original proposals, while still giving Patriot the stability and certainty it needs to move forward."
Patriot Coal filed a motion asking Surratt-States to approve the labor agreement after 85 percent of UMWA members who cast votes last Friday approved the new contract.
Roberts said, "There is still a long way to go, however, before retired mine workers receive all of the health-care benefits they earned during their years in the mines.
"Make no mistake: Peabody Energy and Arch Coal created this problem. They made the promises of lifetime health care to our members, and we will continue our efforts to hold them to their word."
Patriot Coal was founded in 2007 when Peabody Energy sold its union operations east of the Mississippi to the newly created company. In 2008, Patriot bought Magnum Coal, a company that in 2005 took over union mines previously operated by Arch Coal.
The overwhelming majority of Patriot retirees collecting benefits today never worked a day for Patriot.