Miners block train over missed paychecks

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Miners block train over missed paychecks.

Coal miners frustrated over not being paid blocked a load of coal from moving in Pike County Monday.

Kenny Collins said he and another miner, who asked not to be identified, and their wives got to the tracks at Kimper about 2 p.m. Monday and prevented a load of coal from moving.

Collins said the two miners work at Quest Energy and haven’t been paid for three weeks of work.

“They won’t get their coal until we’re paid,” said Collins, who operates a shuttle car at the underground mine.

Collins, who is financially responsible for two children and a grandchild, said the lack of pay has been a hardship. His power got cut off Monday, and it was the last straw for him.

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“If it hadn’t been for my mom, I don’t know how we would’ve made it,” said Collins’ wife, Melissa. “This is the last thing we wanted to do.”

More miners were gathering as darkness fell early Monday evening, and residents near the site were pledging to bring firewood and pizza.

The miners at the tracks said there were 120 cars in the train, and 100 held coal they’d produced at the Quest mine.

The miners said about 50 employees are owed for three weeks of work, totaling $2,000 to $3,000. Collins said he is owed more than $3,000.

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The blockade echoes a protest that miners in Harlan County carried out last summer when a coal company called Blackjewel filed bankruptcy.

The final checks the company issued to hundreds of miners in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia bounced, leaving many overdrawn.

The miners ultimately won a deal to get paid and let the coal train pass.

Quest Energy is owned by American Resources Corporation, which bought some assets of Cambrian Coal during its bankruptcy last year. Concerns later arose that American Resources had not paid a state bond to cover wages and that it was blocked from receiving permits.

Last week, the Herald-Leader reported that employees of Perry County Resources, which is also owned by ARC, reported they had not been paid for two weeks of work before they were laid off in December.

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American Resources acknowledged in an email Monday evening that it is behind eight days in paying some Quest employees and one day on others, but said it had not been three weeks since employees were paid.

“They will be paid as we don’t take this lightly,” said the response from the corporate office. “We value the employees greatly for their work and their future work.”

The company said it faces “challenging markets” but is working to ensure “the longevity of the employment” for all its workers.

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