OREANDA-NEWS. A federal bankruptcy court has set 27 January as the date for the initial auction of some Alpha Natural Resources properties.

Interested buyers will have until 20 January to bid on the mines and associated facilities, according to a notice issued by Alpha's attorneys yesterday. The US Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia will hold a hearing on the auction results on 9 February.

Alpha has proposed selling 16 mining complexes, including preparation plants and load-out facilities, as part of its efforts to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In the proposal filed last month, the US coal producer said it had already sounded out potential "financial and strategic" buyers for the mines.

Most of the properties are in West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and Virginia and have been closed but include active permits. These are: Mountaineer, Coalgood, Cucumber, Edwight, Grassy Creek, Hominy Creek, Revolution, Rock Springs, Superior, Twilight, Twin Star, White Flame and Voyager. Alpha also plans to auction Mine #43 in Tennessee, the Rawl property in West Virginia and the Wabash asset in Illinois, which do not have mines on site but have reserves and load-out facilities.

Separately last week, the judge in Alpha's case continued Alpha's motion to terminate certain non-pension benefits for non-union retirees and their families until 3 December. But the court approved a request by retirees, including Alpha founder Michael Quillen, to establish an official creditor committee of retirees.

Alpha had proposed earlier this month shedding responsibility for certain non-pension benefits for 4,580 non-union retirees and their families, saying it would relieve the company of roughly $125mn in liability. If approved, Alpha's proposal would be effective on 31 December.