ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Robert E. Murray said he fully intends to operate all five Consol Energy coal mines he officially acquired by closing a $3.5 billion deal Thursday, but also said workers will be reporting to facilities bearing new names.
The founder and CEO of St. Clairsville-based Murray Energy Corp. also said he wants each of the mines to increase productivity at a time when coal faces significant challenges from environmental regulations and the proliferation of natural gas.
"Indeed, the mines need to become more productive, in terms of tons produced per employee hour worked, to ensure their continued operation and the continuity of the thousands of jobs they provide," Murray said. "We will work together with all of Murray American Energy Inc.'s new employees to make this happen."
In October, Consol officials announced they would sell the McElroy and Shoemaker mines in Marshall County, the Robinson Run and Loveridge mines in Marion County and the Blacksville No. 2 Mine that straddles the Monongalia County-Greene County, Pa., line to Murray Energy, which already operates the Century Mine near Beallsville and the Powhatan No. 6 mine near Alledonia. The deal became official Thursday.
Murray American Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp., will operate the former Consol mines. However, Murray is rebranding the Shoemaker facility as the "Ohio County Coal Co.'s Ohio County Mine." The McElroy mine will now be known as the "Marshall County Coal Co.'s Marshall County Mine."
The Loveridge mine will now be the "Marion County Coal Co.'s Marion County Mine;" the Robinson Run mine will be "The Harrison County Coal Co.'s Harrison County Mine;" and the Blacksville mine will be renamed the "Monongalia County Coal Co.'s Monongalia County Mine."
By completing the deal, Murray and its subsidiaries now employ about 7,100 people in 13 active coal mines across the nation. Murray officials believe the acquisition should allow the corporation to produce 60 million tons of coal per year, while increasing total reserves to more than 2.3 billion tons.
Phil Smith, spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America, said Thursday the union had no comment on the completed deal. All five of the former Consol mines feature UMWA representation. Prior to this acquisition, only the Murray workers at Powhatan No. 6 had union representation.
"The focus at Murray Energy is on operating very safe coal mines, with a particular emphasis on fire protection and emergency preparedness. The health and safety of all of our employees is foremost," Murray officials stated in announcing the deal.
Even prior to selling these five Mountain State mines, Consol has been shifting its growth focus from coal to natural gas to comply with environmental regulation trends over the past two years. The Pittsburgh-based company plans to use the proceeds gained from the sale to fund its Marcellus and Utica shale well drilling program.
Under the CNX Gas Corp. subsidiary, Consol has active drilling operations in Marshall and Wetzel counties, while Consol works with Hess Corp. to drill wells in eastern Ohio.
"The completion of this complex transaction this year enables us to enter 2014 with our focus of achieving our gas growth production targets of 210225 billion cubic feet equivalent for 2014," said Consol Chairman and CEO J. Brett