Deal offers hope for miners thrown out of work in W. Kentucky

Nearly 700 coal miners in Western Kentucky are feeling hopeful this week, despite Patriot Coal deciding to permanently shut down the Highland and Dodge Hill mines on Dec. 31.

The St. Louis-based company said it was in talks to sell Highland and its Heritage coal plant along the Ohio River, along with assets in Western Kentucky, to affiliates of Alliance Resource Partners LP, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Then, on Jan. 2, Alliance Resource Partners announced that its subsidiary, Alliance Coal, LLC, "has acquired from an affiliate of Patriot Coal Corporation the rights to certain coal supply agreements."

"The agreements provide for delivery of approximately 3.7 million tons of coal during the 2015 through 2017 time period. The Partnership also announced that certain of its affiliates and a related party have agreed to acquire other assets from Patriot, including mining equipment and coal reserves."

The somewhat cryptic news release was fleshed out in more detail by local media outlet Tristatehomepage.com, which confirmed the agreements relate to the Highland and Dodge Hill operations. The shutdown and potential re-start effects about 670 workers.