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Patriot Coal files for bankruptcy

UMWA protest
(Kristi Luther/St. Louis Public Radio)

Patriot Coal filed for Chapter 11 protection Tuesday, less than two years after emerging from bankruptcy.

Patriot, which was spun off from Peabody Energy in 2007, was headquartered in St. Louis until earlier this year. The company is now based in Scott Depot, West Virginia, and filed bankruptcy in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Virginia.

President and CEO Bob Bennett said “challenging market conditions” in coal led the company’s board and management team to make the decision. The company is in negotiations to sell its operating assets to a strategic partner.

The company’s last bankruptcy in 2012 brought protests from retired Peabody miners whose benefits were spun off to Patriot. (Listen to an NPR piece on that subject from 2013.)

The United Mine Workers of America reached an agreement with both Patriot and Peabody in fall 2013 over health care benefits. Patriot contributed $15 million to a benefits plan in 2013 and was to begin putting in an additional $60 million over three years in 2015.

It’s not yet clear what this bankruptcy will mean for that benefits plan. UMWA president Cecil Roberts said in a statement the union remains committed to fighting for retirees’ health care and pension benefits.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.