CONSOL Energy's Miller Creek Surface Operations to be Idled
CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX) has issued notice under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) of its intent to idle its Miller Creek surface operations near Naugatuck, W. Va., resulting in a layoff impacting approximately 145 employees. Operations impacted include the company's Wiley Surface Mine, Wiley Creek Surface Mine, Minway Surface Mine, Minway Preparation Plant, and Miller Creek Administration Group, all located in Mingo County, W. Va. The layoffs will occur during a 14-day period beginning at 12:01 a.m., on December 30, 2012. Employees were officially briefed on the situation today. At this time underground operations will not be affected.
To date in 2012, the Miller Creek complex has produced 1.55 million tons of coal; 83% is produced by surface operations. Annual direct estimated economic impact of the Miller Creek Complex in Mingo County is $161.6 million.
CONSOL Energy attributed the idling of its Miller Creek operations to a sequence of permit delays that has prevented the company from securing all of the necessary environmental permits required to continue mining as identified in the company's mine plan. The company secured its Article III mining permit in November 2011 from the state of West Virginia. It has been working cooperatively with the state Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to secure the needed environmental permits, namely the Clean Water Act section 404 and section 402 permits, since November 2007. CONSOL Energy received news on Monday, October 29 that the U.S. EPA released its objection to the company's 402 permit, however, that permit alone is not sufficient to allow miners to begin work.
"The decision to idle our Miller Creek surface operations is a difficult one for several reasons," said Nicholas J. DeIuliis, president of CONSOL Energy. "The facility has operated without a lost-time accident since 1986, an exemplary safety record for the mining industry, and it is unfortunate that they will not be afforded the opportunity to extend that record. The failure to obtain timely permits despite our efforts in planning and cooperating with multiple agencies of jurisdiction is frustrating and is having a direct impact not only on these employees and their families, but on all state residents."
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