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Conveyor failure halts some production at two Consol mines

| Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013, 11:45 a.m.

A partially collapsed coal conveyor belt at the Bailey preparation plant in Greene County will affect production at two of Consol Energy Inc.'s largest mines for at least 10 days, the company said on Thursday.

Consol said crews began making repairs to the above-ground clean coal belt on Tuesday. No one was injured when a section of the structure failed, but its failure halted operation of longwall mining machines at the high-producing Bailey and Enlow Fork mines, the Cecil-based coal and natural gas producer said.

Continuous miner units remain operational. Spokeswoman Lynn Seay said company executives were evaluating the production impact.

Analyst Anthony Rizzuto Jr. with Cowen and Co. said based on second-quarter production, a full outage would imply a loss of about 900,000 tons of thermal coal. But he expects the impact to be lower if the smaller continuous-mining machines continue to run. Consol could make up shipments with inventory.

The two mines and preparation plant together employ about 1,655 people.

Seay said the belt failure happened in one area of the conveyor system and is smaller than a conveyor belt failure a year ago in another area.

“It's one section, as opposed to the entire system,” she said.

Consol anticipated completing engineering work for repairs by Saturday and resuming production on Aug. 12.

The belt system carries processed coal from silos to a train loading area. The newly installed belt came online during the first week of July, Seay said, and is not part of a system that carries raw coal from the mines to the preparation plant, where the product is washed to separate coal from rock.

A collapse of two new conveyor belts on July 30, 2012, halted movement of coal from Bailey and Enlow Fork mines to the plant. That idled four longwalls for three weeks, until crews restarted one belt.

The company said that incident cost it $53 million in third-quarter 2012 net income, a figure that did not include insurance settlements and some expenses from the incident.

John D. Oravecz is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7882 or joravecz@tribweb.com.

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