2018-07-11 / News

Firm says it will reopen mine here

A mining company owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and with a long history of unpaid taxes and unpaid employees says it will hire 150 people to work at previously closed mines in Letcher and Pike counties.

A&G Coal is currently seeking a permit amendment to add 44.1 acres to a mine on the Letcher- Harlan county line that is under a non-compliance order for disturbing land outside its permitted area.

A&G No. 4 is on Colliers Creek on Black Mountain. The mine has 690.55 acres permitted, and another 44.1 acres not permitted that a mining officials described as “little slivers on top of the highwall” where the company went outside its permitted boundaries. Of the 690 acres, 559 are permitted for auguring highwall, and 416 acres are permitted for contour mining. It has already disturbed about 230 acres of the permitted surface area, and has reclaimed about 200. That leaves about 200 acres that can still be mined.

The mine includes coal extraction from the Low Splint coal seam and two of the High Splint seams.

The company also says it will reopen mines on Bent Mountain near Meta and in the Phelps area of Pike County. The Bent Mountain site had been picked as a site for a solar farm, but needed reclamation before that project could be undertaken.

A&G is a Virginia corporation that lists James Justice III, son of the West Virginia governor, as its CEO, and a press release tell employees to contact Bluestone Industries to apply. The elder Justice sold Bluestone to Mechel OAO, a Russian-owned coal and steel company, in 2009 for $436 million in cash and $83.3 million in preferred stock. He bought it back six years later for $5 million. Bluestone now operates as a subsidiary of Mechel OAO, according to financial services company Bloomberg.

Employees of Bluestone filed suit last month against Gov. Justice and several other members of his family claiming that the company wrote them bad checks, causing returned check fees when the checks were deposited in their bank accounts and bounced. The former employees claim they also incurred wire transfer costs in order to get paid. The suit names Justice, his son James Justice III, daughter Jill Justice, and company secretary/treasurer J.T. Miller.

Miners at Harlan County’s Liggett Mines, also owned by Justice, complained they were never paid severance pay they were promised, and truck drivers hauling from those mines went on strike in 2013 because they alleged Justice was not paying the trucking companies that each hauled more than 1,000 tons of coal per day.

According to an analysis in February by the Lexington-Herald Leader, Justice mining companies owed more than $2.9 million in taxes to coalfield counties, causing shortfalls for schools districts and local governments.

— By SAM ADAMS

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