Blackjewell

Curren Sheldon

Curtis Cress at in the gravel beside a railroad track in Harlan County, Kentucky. Tall and thin with a long, black beard, Cress is every bit a coal miner, or, he was until a month ago.

UPDATE FULL TWO-PART AUDIO, Extended web text. WEKU/Ohio Valley ReSource Exclusvive

“It’s part of my heritage, you know? My dad and papaws had always done it,” he said. “And I’m proud of that heritage.”

Cress had been at these railroad tracks for days, with little sleep. Not far down the rails sat a row of hopper cars filled with coal from his former employer, Blackjewel Coal.

Jeff Young/Ohio Valley ReSource

Kentucky's Attorney General said on Friday he is investigating complaints from miners who say they are not receiving pay following the fast-moving bankruptcy negotiations for Blackjewel mining, which employs some 1100 people in central Appalachia.

Attorney General Andy Beshear said in a statement he has received "numerous troubling complaints" related to the company, "ranging from clawed back paychecks to child support issues.

"I have therefore instructed my office to use all of its powers and resources to seek answers for those who have been harmed," Beshear said.