Westmoreland Coal Emerges from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Westmoreland Coal Co., the nation’s largest independent coal producer, announced March 15 that it has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will operate as a new, privately held company.

The company, headquartered in Englewood, Colorado, near Denver, said its assets, including three mines in Montana, are now owned and operated by Westmoreland Mining LLC, a group of its former creditors. The new company’s CEO is Martin Purvis, a long-time mining industry executive in Australia. The chairman is David Stetson, former CEO of Alpha Natural Resources.

The company in its news release said Michael Hutchinson, who was appointed as Westmoreland’s interim chief executive in November 2017, will retire from the company at the end of the restructuring process.

Westmoreland officials in a news release said the reorganization plan will give the company better financial flexibility after its $1.4 billion bankruptcy, which threatened coal supplies to a number of power plants in the western U.S.

Westmoreland owns the Rosebud mine, which feeds the Colstrip power plant in Montana, the Absaloka mine in south-central Montana, and the Savage mine near Sidney, Montana. The future of those mines is still uncertain. The Savage mine supplies the coal-fired Lewis & Clark Station in Sidney, which Montana-Dakota Utilities recently announced would shut down.

Westmoreland is honoring its sales contract with the 2,094-MW Colstrip plant through the end of this year, but the new ownership group did not say whether it would supply the plant beyond year-end. Colstrip officials have been looking for a new coal supply source.

Westmoreland filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 9, 2018. In January 2019, the company solicited offers for substantially all its assets, but no qualified bids were received, other than the minimum bid from its creditors.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).