Surface cessation at Consol's Miller Creek mines

CONSOL Energy is idling its Miller Creek surface operations near Naugatuck, West Virginia, resulting in the layoff of about 145 workers. It is blaming a series of permit delays for the closures.
Surface cessation at Consol's Miller Creek mines Surface cessation at Consol's Miller Creek mines Surface cessation at Consol's Miller Creek mines Surface cessation at Consol's Miller Creek mines Surface cessation at Consol's Miller Creek mines

Image courtesy of Consol Energy.

Donna Schmidt

Operations impacted include the Wiley, Wiley Cree and Minway surface mines, the Minway preparation plant and Miller Creek Administration Group.

The layoffs will occur over a 14-day period starting on December 30.

Consol said its underground operations would not be affected at this time.

To date the Miller Creek complex has produced 1.55 million tons of coal and 83% of that came from its surface operations.

The annual direct estimated impact of the Miller Creek complex in Mingo County is $161.6 million.

Essentially mining in the affected areas is almost completed and Consol had planned to move those workers to its Buffalo Mountain project.

However, permit delays have prevented the company from securing all of the necessary environmental permits to move on to Buffalo Mountain.

The company secured its Article III mining permit in November 2011 from the state of West Virginia.

Since 2007 Consol has been working with the state Department of Environmental Protection, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Environmental Protection Agency to secure the necessary environmental permits.

These permits include the Clean Water Act section 404 and 402 permits.

Consol was told on October 29 that the US EPA had released its objection to the 402 permit but that permit alone was not enough to allow miners to begin work.

Company president Nicholas Deluliis said the decision to idle the Miller Creek surface operations had been a difficult one.

“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,” he said.

“Consol Energy has been working under a memorandum of understanding together with the Federal Highway Administration, US 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.

“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.”

Deluliis said the Miller Creek surface facility had operated without a lost-time accident since 1986, an exemplary safety record for the mining industry.