A federal judge has ruled that a West Virginia surface mine can continue operating past Jan. 23, allowing the company to keep up to 500 miners working while a dispute over the operation's fill permits continues.
Consol Energy Inc. announced earlier this month it would lay off workers at its Fola Coal Co. operation beginning Feb. 7 because of U.S. District Judge Robert Chamber's ruling to suspend several valley fill permits at the mine.
Chambers' original ruling was in response to a request by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and others to rescind U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-issued fill permits for Fola Coal Co.'s Ike Fork No. 1 and No. 2 mines.
On Monday, Chambers agreed to Consol's request to keep the mine operating past his Jan. 23 cutoff date, Pennsylvania-based Consol announced Tuesday. In his latest order, Chambers noted that OVEC and the other plaintiffs did not opposed the move.
The new order allows Fola to continue using six fill permits at the mines, which are located along the Clay-Nicholas county line.
Consol spokesman Joseph Cerenzia said while Chamber's ruling averted any immediate layoffs, the company would not lift its WARN notice. The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires employers to give employees 60 days notice before layoffs or plant closings occurs.
"The WARN notice is still in place because there are other issues in place," he said. "There are still outstanding permits ... maybe there might be some other environmental challenges."
The notice affects 104 workers at the Little Eagle Mine and about 378 at Fola's Ike Fork Mine.
Last week Gov. Joe Manchin and U.S. Reps. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., went to the operation near Bickmore to show support for the miners and to be assured that Consol wanted to continue operating the mines.
Cerenzia said the mines are currently idled for the holidays, but production is expected to resume next week.