Roughly 200 miners who were laid off last week — about 30 percent of the workforce at Consol Energy’s Bailey mine in Greene County — are returning to work.
As soon as the end of the month, Consol Energy’s operations at Bailey Mine should be business as usual.
The Cecil-based energy company announced on Feb. 7 it would be reducing the size of its workforce at the mine, blaming a state ruling in January that restricted underground mining operations beneath Kent Run, a stream that flows through Ryerson Station State Park in western Greene County.
The company had argued before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board that a 100-foot stream buffer ordered by the state would cause it to leave 360,000 tons of coal in the ground and result in the loss of $15.3 million in coal revenue. Two longwall machines and seven continuous mining machines are used at the mine, according to the company.
Consol said the layoffs happened because mining machinery needed to be moved due to the ruling. Brian Aiello, a Consol spokesman, confirmed Friday that miners have been returning to work this month.
“Additional safety precautions and unscheduled prep work caused the reduction in force until our professionals were in a position to begin to move the longwall,” Mr. Aiello said in a statement.
“That process has commenced and the affected employees are being called back as necessary. Once the longwall is successfully recovered, we will resume a full operational schedule.”
Mr. Aiello added, “We are hopeful that our leaders in Harrisburg will proceed responsibly with regard to policy decisions on this issue in the future so that we can avoid further and more permanent impacts to the workforce.”
An opinion issued Feb. 1 by Steven C. Beckman, the state hearing board judge, blamed Consol for proceeding with mining as if it had the necessary permits in hand.
Consol’s loss of revenue and the harm to employees as the longwall machine is moved is “at least in part the result of operational choices that Consol made on its own,” Mr. Beckman wrote.
The company planned and developed coal within the buffer zone “as if it had Permit Revision No. 204 in hand even though it did not, and even though the testimony at the Consolidated Appeal hearing was that Consol had no guarantee from DEP that it would receive the required permit.”
The Bailey mine is the state’s largest, with an annual production capacity of 11.5 million tons, according to state records.
Daniel Moore: email@example.com, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.