Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, which owns about 8,000 acres spanning Tamaqua to Jim Thorpe, has been sold at an auction.

The buyer is reportedly the Toll Brothers, who own The Bruce and Robbi Toll Foundation, one of the firms which forced LC&N into bankruptcy.

LC&N came close to foreclosure last year when it was provided with a $3.5 million loan from BET Associates IV LLC last summer to continue operating while in bankruptcy.

According to several sources, LC&N has been purchased by Toll Brothers, who are affiliated with BET Associates, during an auction held May 24 at the Dilworth Law Office in Philadelphia.

BET Associates, Toll Brothers, and Dilworth Law Office spokespeople could not be reached for comment this morning on the sale.

The sale of LC&N occurred on the same date that the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that it had suspended all mining activities of LC&N in Carbon and Schuylkill Counties.

Nobody was available from DEP this morning to comment on the sale. The Pottsville office of DEP referred calls to Harrisburg, which referred calls to Wilkes-Barre office, where it was reported the public information officer is on vacation this week.

On May 24, DEP said, "The current Lehigh Coal and Navigation management has shown a persistent unwillingness and inability to mine in accordance with state and federal law or address the reclamation and water treatment needs of this mine site."

A spokesperson for LC&N, who asked not to be identified, has confirmed the sale to Toll Brothers, which has several subsidiaries.

In an involuntary bankruptcy petition filed on July 15, 2008 against LC&N, three creditors Primerock Capital of Pittsburgh, Bruce and Robbi Toll Foundation of Horsham, Montgomery County, and Douglas Tompkis of New York City listed claims of $7.43 million. BET initially filed the foreclosure suit on behalf of the creditors.

In August 2009, BET loaned LC&N $3.5 million so it could continue operating in the hope it could stabilize and eventually pay its bills.

LC&N said Toll Brothers is based in New York and is affiliated with BET Associates.

It is not known if Toll Brothers will have to secure a new mining permit to operate the LC&N site, if the permit must be transferred from LC&N to Toll Brothers, or if the company has other plans for the site.

LC&N has a history which goes back to the formation of the Lehigh Coal Mining Company in 1792 and the Lehigh Navigation Company in 1798. The Lehigh Navigation Company was formed for canal building. The companies merged in the 1820s.

In 1919, LC&N was the sixth largest producer of anthracite coal, selling more than 4.7 million tons. That year, the firm had 7,121 miners.

Earlier this year, James J. Curran, owner of LC&N, said the firm had 110 employees.

Most are currently laid off because of DEP's directive at shutting down mining and sales operations.