Southern Coal calls back some workers

COAL magnate Jim Justice’s Southern Coal has enjoyed an early demand recovery and called back a portion of its crews in two states as a result.

Donna Schmidt

Justice Companies spokesman AJ Dudley told the Roanoke Times in Virginia that it began callbacks two weeks ago in Kentucky and West Virginia, with Virginia next on the list.

“We have already hired back 100, and we have 50 jobs more to fill currently,” he said.

“However, we are hopeful to hire back all previously laid-off workers as soon as possible.”

Southern Coal did not indicate which mines would be benefiting from the increased staff numbers, but did say the returns were occurring earlier than expected due to an increase in coal demand.

Last November, following a contract signing with American Electric Power, the producer had a massive callback of 500 Appalachian miners.

It said at that time that it would hire another 650 miners.

The news is likely welcome for the Justice family. In June, the mining billionaire left a trail of disgruntled contractors across central Appalachia after he allegedly reneged on payments for work dating back to 2011.

At least nine lawsuits have been filed, with more business owners sitting on claims that they are owed money for work at Justice’s mines and have not been paid, according to the Associated Press.

Justice is president and CEO of 47 different companies, including coal operations in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, under parent company James C Justice Companies.

Upon the death of his father in 1993, Justice became the president and CEO of Bluestone Industries and Bluestone Coal Corporation, which he expanded into agriculture and golf courses, among other things.

In 2009, Justice sold the company’s West Virginia coal operations to Russian Mechel for a reported $436 million and an additional $240 million in Mechel shares.

In an interview with the AP in June, Justice acknowledged his companies had some debts, but blamed the problems on the downturn of the global coal industry.

"The coal business is terrible, it's just terrible and we're doing everything in our power to stay open and keep people working," Justice said.

"We're one of the few [companies] that are even still working, trying to employ people and pay taxes."

Justice told AP he was not heavily involved in the operations of his coal companies and complaints about debts reached him "on a limited basis”

However, he said he could "absolutely promise" the debts would be paid.

"Everybody should be really confident they're going to get paid," Justice said.

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