The coal business has been a staple in Daviess County for more than 100 years.

Multiple mines have operated throughout the county, pulling out coal that provided for industry and energy. Now, that coal business has come to a close.

White Stallion, the owner of the last two operating mines in Daviess County, filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday. As part of that action the company closed all of its mines and terminated 260 employees, including all of those in Daviess County.

According to the Chapter 11 filing, White Stallion got caught in a cash crunch brought on by a steep decline in the coal market, and that situation was made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

The company claims it sustained $30 million dollars in losses last year and is in debt to the tune of $104 million.

News of the action began circulating on social media on Wednesday evening as miners began receiving notice.

“I heard about it from an employee that they were closing immediately,” said Daviess County Commission President Nathan Gabhart. “It sounded pretty brutal, just cut them all off cold turkey.”

Gabhart questioned whether politics might have played a part in the closing.

White Stallion’s principal owner is Steve Chancellor, a longtime, major fundraiser for Republicans.

“If they couldn’t survive under Trump, I guess they couldn’t survive under Biden,” said Gabhart. “I just hate it for all of the people that lost jobs.

The Washington Times Herald reached out repeatedly to White Stallion for comment and an explanation about the action, but the company did not answer any calls.

The Times Herald wasn’t the only group reaching out.

“As soon as we heard what was going on, we started looking for a way to talk with White Stallion,” said Daviess County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Bryant Niehoff. “We want to assist them and their employees as they start looking at the next steps they are going to take.

“With our low unemployment rate, I think we might be able to help those people with whatever comes next.”

The action came so quickly that the company did not bother to file a “warn notice” with the state detailing their actions.

The coal business has been facing all kinds of troubles. In Indiana many utility companies are shutting down their old coal-fired plants and replacing them with renewable energy and natural gas. Those sources are cheaper than coal and over the last several years coal companies have struggled to make a profit.

In southwestern Indiana, White Stallion wasn’t the only one shutting down mines this week. Gibson Coal also announced closing its mine and idling 120 people.

And while White Stallion was filing bankruptcy so was a major player in the Western Coal Belt where Lighthouse Energy was also looking for bankruptcy protection.

Even mighty Peabody Coal, which operates the massive Bear Run Mine in Sullivan County, has expressed reservations about the current state of the coal business that could lead them to file for bankruptcy for the second time in five years.

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