Former coal tycoon Richard Gilliam is donating more than $1 million to help coal miners who lost out on paychecks after coal operator Blackjewel filed for bankruptcy last month, according to multiple reports.
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The Richard and Leslie Gilliam Foundation’s donations will be dispersed in the form of $2,000 checks to more than 500 coal miners across Kentucky and Virginia, the reports said. Roughly 1,700 miners across Wyoming, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia lost their jobs when Blackjewel filed for bankruptcy, and their final paycheck bounced.
The donations were announced at multiple events in Virginia and Kentucky. Gilliam is best known as the founder of the Cumberland Resources coal company.
“Richard has not forgotten the work that these miners do, so when he heard of the plight that they had in these sudden, abrupt end to their employment and their last paycheck bouncing, it disturbed him and moved him,” Gilliam Foundation representative Ross Kegan said at a ceremony at the Virginia Career Works Center.
Ex-employees say they are owed millions of dollars in back pay, and some laid-off miners blocked coal shipments in protests as federal bankruptcy court proceedings got underway. A group of Kentucky miners urged the federal judge overseeing the case to set aside some money toward back pay when approving any sale of Blackjewel’s assets.
The judge approved Contura Energy’s bid to buy three Blackjewel mines earlier this week, though the sale requires federal government approval before it can be finalized. The buyers have reportedly agreed to cover some back pay owed to laid-off miners. Several other facilities were also sold at the auction.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.