CONSOL Energy’s (NYSE: CNX) long-running effort to permit a brand-new, Pittsburgh-seam longwall mine in Monongalia County, W.Va., showed a little forward progress on Aug. 16 through a public notice from the water division at the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The notice said that CONSOL’s Wolfpen Knob Development unit is seeking an Article 11/West Virginia National Pollutant Discharge Elimination permit in order to construct and operate a freshwater impoundment. The operation will discharge storm water into Joy Run of Camp Run of North Fork of West Virginia Fork of Dunkard Creek and is 1.55 miles northwest of Wadestown in Monongalia County.
Pending at the DEP’s mining division are four other applications dating from 2008 and 2009 for the Mason Dixon project, which cover the mine itself, a prep plant, a refuse disposal area and a freshwater impoundment.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said last December that it plans to write an environmental impact statement on the water impacts of the Mason Dixon mine related to a needed Section 404 Clean Water Act permit.
CONSOL has indicated it wants to finish expanding some of its existing longwall mines in the region before it spends the money to develop this new complex. CONSOL said in a 2008 filing at the U.S. Surface Transportation Board related to planned Norfolk Southern Corp. rail transport of this coal that the Mason Dixon complex would turn out 8.5 million tons per year initially, with the eventual production level to perhaps be three times that number. This would be steam coal aimed at the expanding market for high-sulfur coal created by numerous new SO2 scrubbers being installed on power plants in the eastern U.S.
Incidentally, CONSOL’s Vaughan Railroad subsidiary in February re-filed with the STB the June 2008 petition related to the Mason Dixon project. The company re-filed it because of confusion on the part of a board official whether the mine would initially produce 8.5 million tons per year (the correct figure), or 85 million tons per year.
“The Vaughan Railroad Company (‘Vaughan’), a Class III common carrier railroad and a subsidiary of CONSOL Energy Inc. (‘CONSOL’), proposes to build a new, 5.55-mile long common carrier rail line in Monongalia County, West Virginia, in order to allow rail service to be provided to a new coal mine currently under development by Wolfpen Knob Development Company (‘Wolfpen’), another subsidiary of CONSOL,” said the petition. “The new line, dubbed the ‘Mason-Dixon’ line, will connect with a nearby rail line of the Norfolk Southem Railroad (‘NS’). Although Vaughan is also seeking authorization to operate its new line, Vaughan anticipates that following completion of the Mason-Dixon line, NS will assume operating responsibility for it.”
The proposed new Mason-Dixon rail line will connect with the NS Wana Spur just south of the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border at NS milepost 0.55, extend in a southwesterly direction along the West Virginia Fork of Dunkard Creek to a point just northeast of Wadestown, then turn northwest to reach a loading loop track that will be adjacent to the new mine.