Kentucky miners block coal train from leaving mine

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PIKEVILLE, Ky. — Less than six months after a group of coal miners blocked a coal train in Kentucky in protest of unpaid wages, another group of allegedly unpaid miners have blocked yet another coal train.

On Monday, Quest Energy coal miners, claiming they have not been paid by the company in three weeks, blocked a loaded CSX coal train from leaving a mine near Pikeville, Ky., on CSX’s Coal Run Subdivision. The miners say their last paycheck was deposited into their accounts in late December and was for work completed in a pay period ending Dec. 22. They say they have not received wages for work completed since that date.

The situation is similar to the months-long protest undertaken by coal miners in Harlan County, Ky., against bankrupt coal operator Blackjewel in summer 2019. That protest garnered worldwide attention as the miners stood on the tracks outside of a Cumberland, Ky., mine and blocked a CSX train from leaving on the railroad’s Poor Fork Subdivision in Eastern Kentucky. The Blackjewel miners were laid off without pay once the company filed for bankruptcy and they refused to let CSX pull the train out of the mine until they were paid for the work they had completed in producing the coal loaded train. The protest lasted into the fall and after state and federal scrutiny and bankruptcy court proceedings, the miners eventually began to be paid their wages.

The miners in this latest protest say the train they blocked is 120 cars of metallurgical coal that was loaded Sunday night. Like the Blackjewel protest, the Quest miners allowed CSX to retrieve its two locomotives from the mine on the condition the crew leave the loaded train behind. The miners at the site of the protest tell Trains News Wire that CSX employees were courteous and sympathetic to the group’s quarrel with their employer. Of the 120 loaded cars, 100 are cars loaded with Quest coal. The other 20 are loaded with coal mined at a nearby operation which is unaffiliated with Quest.

In statement issued by Quest parent company American Resources Corp., the company says the miners have not gone unpaid work several weeks as they claim. The company says some employees are behind between one and eight days on pay, but that the company is working to pay the miners. The company says it has “put forth efforts to make a few of our mines more productive,” and “coupled with a short-term blip in the coal markets,” a “few short-term issues” have occurred which the company expects to resolve soon.

In a statement to Trains News Wire, CSX acknowledged the situation and confirmed it had retrieved its locomotives. The railroad did not comment regarding its stance on the protest or give details on the destination of the train.

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