Thousands of coal miners, some of them declared having black lung disease, will be losing their medical coverage.

US Bankruptcy Judge William Howard ruled yesterday that Horizon Natural Resources does not have to honor union contracts that guaranteed benefits to 100,000 active miners and some 2,300 retirees.

UMWV President Cecil Roberts called the decision "a complete and utter travesty of justice." He added that the workers have done absolutely nothing wrong.

Numerous coal corporations have been attempting to back out of benefit packages related to health care and retirement benefits.

Horizon Natural Resources, the nation's fourth largest coal company, has mines in West Virginia, Illinois and Kentucky. It has declared bankruptcy.

The order sparked an immediate outcry from the United Mine Workers of America, which has staged massive protests on the streets of Lexington, Kentucky.