St Louis based Peabody Energy is holding its annual shareholders meeting in Wyoming to highlight the importance of the coal-rich Powder River Basin.
A delegation of more than a dozen retired and active mine workers from West Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky and Florida are protesting.
One group critical of the company, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, claims the company is trying to avoid hearing concerns in its hometown.
Meantime, thousands of protesting mine workers returned to St. Louis today as hearings begin in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on demands by Peabody's Patriot Coal Company. Miners accuse Peabody of eliminating health care for retired miners and for making cuts in pay, benefits and working conditions for current miners.
In a statement, Peabody Energy says "The union continues to grandstand when it knows that this matter will be decided in the courts. Patriot was highly successful following its launch more than five years ago with significant assets, low debt and a market value that more than quadrupled in less than a year. Peabody has lived up to its obligations and continues to do so. This is a matter between the union and Patriot Coal, and will be decided in the bankruptcy court."
Patriot Coal is offering the mine workers union a 35 percent stake in the reorganized company. The offer is aimed at winning support for benefit and wage cuts for thousands of active miners, retirees and beneficiaries. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Patriot sent the offer to the United Mine Workers of America on Wednesday.
The move comes less than three weeks before the Creve Coeur-based coal producer and the union are set to clash in a bankruptcy hearing after negotiating over the proposed cuts for months. Patriot says it must cut $150-million in operating expenses in order to survive. The company says they only place left to cut is wages and benefits.
Patriot spun off from St. Louis-based Peabody Energy in 2007, and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July of last year.
KTRS's Michael Golde is on the scene and reports that the protesters' goal was to get arrested. They hope to draw attention to what they believe is a unfair deal concerning their pension and health benefits.
Peabody's Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications Vic Svec, says this is a matter between Patriot coal and the United Mine Workers of America. Many of the former miners at the protest, worked for Patriot Coal. They argue that Peabody Energy made Patriot Coal a separate company that was never supposed to succeed. They accuse Peabody of "fraudulent conveyance,” or transfer of money with the intent to hurt creditors, but that charge must be proved to hold Peabody liable for potential losses in retirement benefits.
There were also miners arrested at another protest of Peabody last month. The protest remains peaceful and those miners arrested were very cordial with police, even shaking hands with the arresting officers.