PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Three Kentucky surface mines with connections to West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice plan to hire 150 employees in an area where coal jobs have declined over the past decade.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports Bluestone Industries plans to begin production immediately. Bluestone said the mines are in Pike and Letcher counties and have been inactive due to market decline. Bluestone has ties to the Justice family.

Justice and his family own dozens of mining companies and owe millions in unpaid property taxes to Kentucky counties where they operate.

Justice told the newspaper Monday that the companies are entitled to dispute tax bills in some cases but said "we're not going to walk away from an obligation."

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said the number of eastern Kentucky coal jobs fell from more than 13,600 in 2011 to just over 4,000 in 2017.