Blackhawk joins growing list of bankrupt coal miners filing Chapter 11

Blackhawk Mining LLC filed for Chapter 11 court protection in Delaware, adding to a growing list of bankrupt coal miners.

Blackhawk Mining LLC filed for chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware, after striking a deal with a small group of lenders to swap some $600 million in debt for all of the equity in a reorganized company.

What Happened?

The privately held, Lexington, Kentucky-based coal miner has been struggling to meet payments on close to $1 billion in debt.

The company said it had reached an agreement with more than 90 percent of its lenders on a financial restructuring that will be implemented through the Chapter 11 process.

The plan would convert more than 60 percent of its debt to equity and provide $150 million of incremental liquidity, with lenders emerging as the owners of the reorganized company.

Why It Matters:

The coal industry as a whole has been hit by competition from natural gas, which in 2016 overtook coal as the largest source of electricity generation in the U.S., and weak growth in demand for electricity.

Cloud Peak Energy Inc., Blackjewel LLC, and Cambrian Holding Co. are among the coal mining companies that have gone bankrupt in the past year.

Blackhawk is the eighth major U.S. coal producer to file bankruptcy since November 2017 and the fifth so far this year.

The following is a list compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence of major U.S. coal company bankruptcies since the start of 2017:

Blackjewel, July 1, 2019
Cambrian Holding, June 16, 2019
Cloud Peak Energy, May 10, 2019
Trinity Coal, March 4, 2019
Mission Coal, Oct. 14, 2018
Westmoreland Coal, Oct. 9, 2018
Armstrong Energy, Nov. 1, 2017

Also, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released a report that projects sharp declines for fossil fuels and nuclear power while accompanied by stronger growth in renewable energy (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) than earlier projected.

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