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Patriot Coal again seeks bankruptcy protection

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Patriot Coal on Tuesday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, saying the company is trying to come up with another reorganization plan less than two years after emerging from a previous court-supervised financial makeover.

Lawyers for Scott Depot-based Patriot filed the petition at about 8 a.m. in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Va., saying that Patriot is “engaged in active negotiations” to sell “substantially all” of its operating assets to a “strategic partner.”

The move comes amid continued struggles for Appalachian coal producers, as the industry faces stiff competition from cheap natural gas, the depletion of the best coal seams in Southern West Virginia, growth of renewable energy sources, and new environmental rules aimed at curtailing air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

“In light of the challenging market conditions, and after a comprehensive review of our alternatives, the Board and management team have determined that this process represents the best path forward for Patriot and its stakeholders,” Patriot President and CEO Bob Bennett said in a press release.

“Patriot is dedicated to operational and environmental excellence and, as always, we remain committed to operating safely and serving our customers throughout this restructuring process,” Bennett said. “We greatly appreciate the continued support of our customers and our suppliers and the ongoing hard work of our employees.”

As of the first quarter of 2015, Patriot employed about 2,900 miners, most of them at the company’s major mining operations in West Virginia…

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