Protesting miners allow CSX diesels to leave mine without loaded train

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LOYALL, Ky. — A group of out of work coal miners in Eastern Kentucky have allowed a pair of CSX locomotives to leave a mine on the condition the railroad leaves behind the loaded coal train they were leading.

According to a statement from CSX Transportation, out-of-work and unpaid coal miners protesting at Blackjewel Mining's Cloverfork No. 3 mine near Cumberland, Ky., have moved out of the way to allow two CSX locomotives to leave the area. WYMT News in Hazard, Ky., is reporting that the miners agreed to make way for the locomotives — an ES44AC and a CW44AC — on the condition that the railroad leave behind the loaded coal train they were leading which had loaded at the Cloverfork No. 3 mine. "Following productive discussions with local stakeholders, the demonstrators agreed to briefly withdraw allowing a CSX crew to safely retrieve two locomotives from the blocked coal train so that we could continue serving other customers," the CSX statement says. "We continue to monitor the situation and are hopeful that a quick resolution can be reached."

The development comes as miners are currently in the fourth day of a peaceful protest outside of the mine which was included in Blackjewel's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing last month. As a result of the filing and subsequent events which allegedly occurred after, the miners' last paychecks were recalled by the coal operator's bank, leaving the miners unpaid for work they've already performed. The miners are demanding they be paid for their work and have taken up residence next to, and in some cases on, the CSX tracks, threatening not to leave until they are paid. Many of the miners have not been paid in more than a month. WYMT also reports that Blackjewel's former CEO Jeff Hoops has taken responsibility for the situation. Hoops, in letter to the unpaid miners, claimed that he has attempted to deposit money in order to cover payroll, but was denied from doing so in federal bankruptcy court. He claims that the lapse in payroll was the result of a creditor advising Blackjewel's banking institution to freeze the company's accounts, as well as Hoops' personal accounts, before the company could file bankruptcy in consideration of its debt to that creditor.

In the letter, Hoops claimed threats have been made against his life, his family, and his assets.

The Cloverfork No. 3 mine sits on CSX's former Louisville & Nashville Poor Fork Branch out of Loyall, Ky. The railroad serves several mining operations on the branch, which has seen a sharp decline in coal shipments over the past several years. Kentucky State Police was called to the scene of the protest on Tuesday and troopers advised the miners of the potential consequences of their human blockade against the CSX train. A spokesperson for the local state police post in Harlan County, Ky., told Trains News Wire that KSP is ready to assist in the situation if requested by CSX Railroad Police, but, currently, they are taking no part in the situation.

It remains unclear at this time whether any more trains are planned to attempt to serve the mine.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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