Corporate coal hub of St. Louis faces more big bankruptcies

There’s a real possibility that every publicly traded coal company in the St. Louis region could wind up in bankruptcy court this year.

Just last week, Peabody Energy and Foresight Energy both disclosed they may have to file for Chapter 11 protection as heavy debt loads weigh them down amid a long industry slump. They would join Creve Coeur-based Arch Coal, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January. And Patriot Coal Corp., formerly based in Creve Coeur, sold itself off in pieces after filing for bankruptcy a second time in 2015.

But experts say St. Louis won’t feel as much pain as the small communities that depend on coal mines face.

“How do you replace $60,000 a year jobs in rural Southern Illinois?” said Dale Fowler, the mayor of Harrisburg, Ill., which sits near several mines that have announced layoffs this year, including Peabody’s Cottage Grove mine.

Today, with natural gas ascendant, renewable energy continuing to grow, and environmental regulations threatening to shutter more coal power plants, the sector’s prospects look dimmer than ever.

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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