Consol Buying Up Local Land

MOUNDSVILLE – Officials with Consol Energy Inc. believe so strongly in the McElroy and Shoemaker mines that they have purchased $3.8 million worth of land near the operations in the past two months.

As companies like Chesapeake Appalachia, AB Resources and Consol-owned CNX Gas Corp. lock up land throughout West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle for Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling, coal mining work at McElroy and Shoemaker in Marshall County remains viable.

“In the normal course of mining, we may need to purchase some adjacent property to complete our work,” said Joe Cerenzia, director of public relations for Consol. “These land purchases are part of our regular activity.”

The $3.8 million in property acquisitions during the past two months include about $1.3 million worth of land in the Cameron area, $995,000 in the Benwood area, $900,000 in the Stone Church Road area, and about $600,000 in other sectors of the county.

“We are mining more and more in the Cameron area now,” Cerenzia said regarding the land purchases around the community. He also said the Benwood acquisitions probably were related to the installation of the new belt system, the overland portion of which resembles a giant blue water slide crossing over W.Va. 2.

The two mines currently employ about 1,300 people, with roughly 850 of those jobs at McElroy and 450 at Shoemaker, Cerenzia said. He noted that current Consol plans call for working in Marshall County for the foreseeable future.

“We plan to mine our reserves. … There are decades worth of coal left in both mines,” said Cerenzia.

Cerenzia knows, however, there are some issues pending in Washington, D.C. that could potentially impact Consol’s operations. Recent fossil fuel mishaps – including Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, W.Va., that killed 29 miners on April 5, the ongoing BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the methane gas explosion at the AB Resources well site in Marshall County on June 7 – may prompt the federal government to seek alternative energy sources.

“Actions in Washington, D.C. certainly are a consideration and certainly have our attention,” Cerenzia said. “Right now, coal produces 50 percent of the electricity in the U.S.”