CONSOL Energy to wrap up Fola idling in February 2013

CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX) said Dec. 14 that it has issued notice under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) of its intent to complete the idling of its Fola operations near Bickmore, W. Va., resulting in a layoff of 131 surface and office employees and 16 employees at the company’s Little Eagle deep mine.

The layoffs will occur during a 14-day period beginning at 12:01 a.m., on Feb. 14, 2013. Employees were officially briefed on the situation on Dec. 14.

CONSOL attributed this WARN notice to the expected February completion of coal processing and shipping from its prep plant and recovery of equipment and infrastructure from the Little Eagle deep mine. CONSOL anticipates that accelerated reclamation work will continue through mid-summer. Earlier in 2012, the company announced it would lay-off 318 employees and reassigned the remaining 147 employees from mining to reclamation work. The only coal produced through that transition occurred on the surface and was incidental to reclamation.    

“A combination of market conditions and increasing pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which resulted in both increased costs of surface mining and significant uncertainty for the company’s power generation customers related to the continued use of Central Appalachian coal were cited as reasons for the idling,” the company said.

“The decision to idle our Fola operations is a difficult one, but earlier this year we began the effort to manage our inventory and to balance coal production with expected utility demand and shipping schedules,” said Nicholas DeIuliis, CONSOL president. “We transitioned to reclamation during that period.”

He added: “Unfortunately, the domestic market for coal remains soft due to weak economic growth and activity and the continued inability of our customers to accept committed coal shipments remains a concern. We are hopeful that coal markets will normalize in the second half of 2013 and allow us to review the status of our Fola operations.”

The Fola Coal Co. LLC operations listed with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration and their operating status as defined by MSHA are:

  • Winoc prep plant, nonproducing;
  • Peach Orchard prep plant and loading facility, active;
  • Surface Mine No. 2, active, 906,972 tons of production in the first three quarters of this year (but only 52,187 tons in the third quarter), with 2.2 million tons of output in all of 2011;
  • Fola Eagle No. 1 deep mine, new operation, no production through end of the third quarter; and
  • Big Dragon deep mine, new operation with no recorded production through the end of the third quarter.

An affiliated company is Little Eagle Coal Co. LLC, with two operations listed with MSHA under that company name.

  • Ike Fork 5 Block deep mine, active, with a production start in the first quarter of 2012 and 207,953 tons of output in the first nine months of 2012; and
  • Lick Branch No. 2 deep mine, nonproducing, last production in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Little Eagle Coal applied Oct. 1 at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection for permits on both a deep mine and a haulroad located in Fayette County.

One of the applications covered the Lick Branch No. 3 room-and-pillar mine, to work the Powellton coal seam at a site near Gauley Bridge, just south of the Nicholas County line. The permit would cover 27 acres of surface support area. A DEP map shows this mine would be located next to one section of the 464-acre Bridge Fork West strip job of Powellton Coal Co. LLC, another CONSOL subsidiary.

The other Oct. 1 application from Little Eagle Coal covers Haulroad No. 1, located near Jodie in Fayette County and covering a total of 91 acres.

Also pending at the DEP as of Dec. 15 under Little Eagle Coal is one other mine permit application, dating back to August 2011, for the Peachorchard No. 2 room-and-pillar mine, to be located along the Clay/Nicholas county line near Bickmore and working the Coalburg seam.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.