James River files bankruptcy after price drops idle mine




NEW YORK — James River Coal Co., a mine operator in the Midwest and Appalachia, has filed for bankruptcy for a second time, listing $818.7 million in debt, after declining prices caused it to idle 12 mines since September.

Booming natural gas output from shale rock in recent years has spurred some electric utilities to switch to using gas. Meanwhile, rising Australian output of metallurgical coal, which is used in steelmaking, has helped create a global surplus and depressed prices.

The company idled four Kentucky mines in November, putting about 200 workers on furlough. The mines produced 1 million tons of coal in the first nine months of 2013, while company-wide output was 6.12 million tons, the company said. James River had already idled eight mines as third-quarter production fell 15 percent from a year earlier.

Signs of financial distress intensified last month when the company said it would delay its annual 10-K regulatory filing, wouldn’t host a conference call to discuss fourth-quarter results, and would skip the interest payment on notes due 2018, potentially triggering a default at the end of a 30-day grace period.

The company listed $1.07 billion in assets and in a Chapter 11 petition filed Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Va., where it’s based. James River emerged from a previous bankruptcy in May 2004.

Beth Cook, a spokeswoman for the company, didn’t immediately return a call and e-mail seeking comment about the bankruptcy.

Monday’s filing listed more than 30 units that are also bound for bankruptcy.

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