Wyoming is no stranger to coal firm bankruptcies, but the Westmoreland Coal Company story is unique in a few ways, from the mine-to-power plant operation to a unionized workforce and unexpected buyer.
As the company looks poised to sell the Kemmerer mine and get out of Dodge, the community and the miners left behind face uncertainty. Here are five stories to get you up to speed in the developing story of a coal company gone bankrupt in western Wyoming.
After months of bankruptcy rumors, Westmoreland breaks
The company promised locals that operations and employment in Wyoming wouldn't be disrupted when it filed for Chapter 11 in October.
Labor balks at company's plan for retiree benefits
Westmoreland sought to cut labor obligations that, they said, made selling the mine impossible. The United Mine Workers of America, which represents the Kemmerer miners, rallied retirees to appeal to the bankruptcy judge for benefits. More than a dozen former workers sent emotional pleas for pensions and health benefits they feared they would lose.
Coal exec resigns
Citing personal reasons, the former chief financial officer of Westmoreland stepped down. Executive bonuses in the lead up to bankruptcy irked miners.
Virginian billionaire stalks mine
One of a few picking up cheap coal assets since the industry downturn, a Virginia businessman was announced as the stalking horse bidder for the Kemmerer mine. He reiterated what the company argued — that the retiree benefits are too costly to carry on.
Court rules for company
Kemmerer miners were disheartened as the Houston bankruptcy court ruled in favor of Westmoreland, allowing the existing union contract to be broken and retiree health benefits to be eliminated.