UPDATE 10/30/12 @ 10:45 p.m.
MINGO COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- CONSOL Energy says it plans to layoff 145 employees at its Miller Creek surface operations near Naugatuck, W. Va.
The layoffs are set to start December 30, according to a press release.
The 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.
Employees were told of the layoffs on Tuesday.
CONSOL says at this time its underground operations are not going to be affected.
The company says the layoffs are due 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 says it was told Monday 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.”
"CONSOL Energy has been working under a Memorandum of Understanding together with the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the West Virginia Departments of Highways and Environmental Protection, and the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority since 2007 to secure the permits for development of our Buffalo Mountain mine project on which the King Coal Highway was planned for post-mine use land," DeIuliis continued. "It was there we were planning to reassign our workforce once the area in which they were mining was completed. The combined mine and highway project, in addition to providing much needed jobs, would have a total statewide economic impact of $484.7 million dollars."
So far this year, the Miller Creek complex has produced 1.55 million tons of coal; 83% is produced by surface operations. The company says the annual direct estimated economic impact of the Miller Creek Complex in Mingo County is $161.6 million.
Consol Energy announced Friday they are idling a mine in Clay County, and that means more than 300 workers are now off the job.
"It's getting rough," said Andrew Truman, coal miner. "It's going to be hard to keep a job anywhere."
It's tough news for miners to take in West Virginia. Just days after Alpha Natural Resources announced that it's laying off 100 miners across the state, 318 more miners are losing their jobs, as Consol Energy decided to idle its Fola Operations in Clay County.
"We come in at shift change, and they gave us a warning letter letting us know they will shut down in 60 days if nothing changes as far as selling the coal or whatever," said Woody Carver, a miner with Fola Operations.
Consol says it needs to adjust to soft markets and declining demand. The warm winter left customers with huge coal stockpiles, and company officials are worried whether or not power companies will continue to use Central Appalachian coal at their plants.
The uncertainty is leaving many miners on edge.
"I worry about it," Truman said. "I still got to do my job. I got to go on. If something happens, if they do lay us off, I'll just have to find something else because I gotta take care of my family so, they come first."
Now they're left to figure out how they're going to take care of their families, working in an industry they said is dying in the Mountain State.
"I'd tell you the coal business is just about gone," Carver said. "Especially in this state. That means a lot of families are going hungry."
"It's the heart of West Virginia," Truman said. "Coal mining. If it ain't there, there ain't nothing."
This isn't the first time the Fola Complex has been targeted for closure.
In December 2009, Consol announced they were going to have to lay off 500 workers at the mine because they weren't able to get fill permits.
A judge granted those permits at the last minute, and they canceled their plans to shut the mine down.
The shutdown will affect 318 workers, including surface and underground miners, and reclamation and office staff.
Pittsburgh-based Consol said Friday it expects 2012 production to be reduced by 800,000 tons. So far this year, the Fola complex has produced more than 1 million tons of coal.
Consol says it needs to adjust to soft markets and declining demand. It also says there's "significant uncertainty" about whether power companies will continue to use Central Appalachian coal at their plants.
President Nicholas DeIuliis also says the warm winter left customers with huge stockpiles, and they can't accept more shipments.
Until the layoffs begin, underground operations will continue, but surface employees will be reassigned from mining to reclamation work.
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