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Consol to reduce operations at Bailey Mine Complex in Greene County

| Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, 2:48 p.m.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Coal storage silos and conveyor belts at the Consol Energy Bailey Mine Complex in Greene County. Photo taken Friday, June 6, 2014.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Jimmy Brock, chief operating officer of Consol Energy's coal division, exits the underground training facility during a tour of the Bailey Mine Complex in Greene County on Friday, June 6, 2014.

Consol Energy's plan to reduce coal production this year as it deals with a tough market will result in changes at its sprawling mine complex in Greene and Washington counties.

The Cecil-based coal and natural gas company on Monday will temporarily idle one of five longwall-mining machines in the Bailey complex. Consol does not expect layoffs as it shifts about 200 employees to other jobs in the mines.

“We do think it's going to be short-term,” said James Brock, Consol's chief operating officer for coal and CEO of CNX Coal Resources, which the company spun off last year to operate the mines. The company did not say how much it expects to save with the move.

Consol last week lowered its projected production for the year to 27 million to 32 million tons, from 30.6 million to 33.4 million tons, as demand continues to soften.

A warm start to winter worsened a market for coal that already resulted in low production and prices last year as utilities switch to natural gas to fire power plants.

“I think the weather definitely impacted it. But it's a combination of all those things,” Brock said.

The moves highlight tough times across an industry struggling to compete with cheaper natural gas and tougher environmental regulations on the power sector.

Kittanning-based Rosebud Mining Co. blamed low demand from power plants last week when it idled 20 mines and furloughed 429 employees across Western Pennsylvania. St. Louis-based Arch Coal this week became the fourth major producer to file for bankruptcy.

Consol expects to run the remaining four longwalls for three shifts, four days a week, as it continues to churn out coal for customers.

“This is a measure to optimize our operating schedules,” Brock said.

The company has contracted about 93 percent of what it expects to produce this year and nearly two thirds of 2017 production.

David Conti is the Tribune-Review's assistant business editor. Reach him at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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