Gillette coal miners struggle in wake of Blackjewel's bankruptcy

GILLETTE, Wyo. (KEVN) - Coal is the lifeline of the northeast Wyoming economy and the closure of two major mines impacts the lives of hundreds of coal miner families.

The t-shirts that go toward the relief fund

Blackjewel employees say poor management left hundreds without jobs after the company filed for bankruptcy.

"We knew the company was in trouble or was having trouble paying their bills, but we never thought they would stop mining because they did have contracts," says Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King.

It was during a morning meeting in June when the employees found out the two Gillette mines were closing.

"Well, it was pretty shocking cause we really did not have notice on that. They had been told and I don't think anyone in the community thought they would just lock their gates," says Carter-King.

Rory Wallett is one of the miners who was laid off.

"You know this one is completely different than most energy failures. Most of the time it's market fluctuation that affects it; and this being bad management, it's a new twist on the hurt," says Wallett.

Employees say they've not been paid since June, putting an added strain on them, their families, and the community. Unfortunately, coal mine layoffs aren't new to the city of Gillette.

There was another round of employees let go back in 2016 when Contura Energy sold the mines to Blackjewel.

"This has kinda rolled over into the 'Families of Energy' relief fund," says Wallett. "It's gonna help with the Blackjewel situation a bit, but the big push is any energy family that comes into an unforeseen hardship, we are going to be able to support them."

The organization is selling t-shirts that go directly to helping any energy family in the nation.

Here's a link to the website for the petition.

Click here for the shirt/donation page.

You can also email the organization at familiesofenergyrelieffund@gmail.com or by phone at 307-228-0353.