CONSOL Energy today announced plans to halt production at at least one coal mine in Buchanan County, Va.
The Pittsburgh, Pa.-based CONSOL, which operates coal mines across Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, announced Tuesday that it was idling the Buchanan Mine for 30 to 60 days.
“CONSOL Energy is responding to weak market conditions throughout its export markets in Asia, Europe and South America,” the company said in a written announcement of the decision.
The Buchanan Mine — CONSOL’s only mine in the county — produces about 400,000 tons monthly of metallurgical-grade coal for steel production. According to information on CONSOL’s website, Buchanan set a company record for coal production in 2011 with 5.7 million tons mined that year.
The move will furlough more than 600 workers indefinitely.
Buchanan County will also take an economic hit.
In Buchanan County, Horne said that Virginia coal severance tax revenues make up a significant portion of the county budget. Horne said he and Buchanan County Treasurer Bill Keene began another look at county revenues Tuesday in the wake of CONSOL’s news, and both agreed that the Buchanan idling could mean as much as $2 million in lost revenue for the 2012-13 county fiscal year.
“It’s hard to say right now, but we could lose about $1 million a month,” Keene said of the idling. “This gas and coal market has bottomed out.”
Despite CONSOL citing global market conditions, the area’s freshman Republican representative wasted no time in pinning the blame on President Obama.
“President Obama, his Administration, and his allies — like MoveOn.org and the Sierra Club — are all very clear about their agenda — make using coal history,” [Rep. Morgan] Griffith said. “Today’s news is just the latest demonstration that this agenda is making gains. … I believe the administrative branch of the federal government and its leaders are arbitrarily and capriciously targeting this profession.”
Griffith received three times more in campaign contributions from the mining industry than from any other source, though obviously one would have to be pretty cynical to suggest he’s motivated by crass politics.