Consol Energy told government officials and workers Tuesday that it will idle a West Virginia surface mine and lay off approximately 145 employees starting at the end of the year.
The Cecil-based coal and natural gas company, which recently posted its first quarterly loss in five years, said its decision was prompted by delays in the necessary environmental permit approval at its Miller Creek operations.
The company said it has been working on securing permits related to the Clean Water Act since November 2007, and said it continues to work through permit delays. Underground operations at the site will not be affected.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency removed its objection to one of the company's Clean Water Act permits earlier this week, but Consol said that move alone wouldn't allow it to start work.
The Miller Creek complex has produced 1.55 million tons of coal so far this year.
Operations affected by the layoffs include the Wiley Surface Mine, Wiley Creek Surface Mine, Minway Surface Mine, Minway Preparation Plant and Miller Creek Administration Group. All are located in Mingo County, W.Va., which is in the southwestern part of the state bordering Kentucky.
The layoffs will occur during a two-week period beginning Dec. 30.
Earlier this year, Consol idled several mines due to a tempered international market and machinery malfunctions. The slowdowns led to a net loss of $11 million in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, the first quarterly loss at the company since 2007.
J. Brett Harvey, Consol chairman and CEO, appeared on Fox Business on the Thursday after the below-expectation earnings were reported. Mr. Harvey praised Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's energy plan, and said coal's outlook improved when the former Massachusetts governor endorsed its development in the presidential debates.
Coal workers have become a swing constituency in this election cycle, with the Republican nominee trying to siphon votes that in 2008 went to union-backed Democratic President Barack Obama.
Mr. Harvey joined coal colleagues in supporting Mr. Romney, saying, "I think if we have a change in the presidency, we're going to keep our low-cost energy moving forward and use American coal, which is red, white and blue."
Erich Schwartzel: email@example.com or 412-263-1455.