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 Post subject: Coal company president sees industry renaissance
PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 7:53 am 
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Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:16 pm
Posts: 478
Location: Anthracite Region of PA
Coal company president sees industry renaissance

By Denise Allabaugh (Staff Writer)
Published: September 28, 2013

PLAINS TWP. - The anthracite coal industry in Pennsylvania is experiencing a renaissance, said Greg Driscoll, president of Blaschak Coal Corp. in Mahanoy City.

Driscoll spoke about the future of anthracite coal and its importance to the economic growth of the region at the 15th annual "Bringing the World to Northeastern Pennsylvania" event hosted by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance on Friday at the Woodlands Inn and Resort. Coal continues to be used in the steel industry and the home heating market, he said.

"Pennsylvania has a wonderful resource here," Driscoll said of coal. "The industry is coming back. The industry sees a future that is bright and a future that can contribute vitally to the economic development of Pennsylvania."

Driscoll pointed out the coal mining industry declined for a number of reasons. It left behind damaged areas and bad legacies, but it did not decline because there wasn't more coal.

"Everyone thinks it's gone. Everyone thinks its best days have passed. Everyone thinks it's not worth doing anymore," Driscoll said. "There are billions of tons of anthracite in the eight counties of Northeastern Pennsylvania."

According to history he presented, anthracite coal was discovered in the early 1800s. The demand for it grew rapidly, fueling the industrialization of America. The demand peaked in 1917 and 100 million tons were supplied during World War I. About 200,000 miners worked underground in the mines then in Northeastern Pennsylvania, which was the center of commercial activity. The discovery and development of natural gas decreased the demand for coal.

Today, there are handful of large, integrated companies, including Blaschak, and about 30 smaller family companies. The industry exported about 600,000 tons of coal in 2012, up from 100,000 tons in 2009, Driscoll said.

"In general, it's growing. I don't want to tell you everything is wonderful. Everything is not wonderful, but things are in the right direction," he said. "This industry went from producing 100 million tons in 1917 to 1 million in 2007. That's quite a decline. That sounds like death. But today, we're growing again. Now we're back up to 3 million tons (being produced in Northeastern Pennsylvania) and we're on our way up."

New investors have made significant commitments to the region. Since 2009, there has been more than $250 million of new investment in the industry in the region and the number is growing, he said.

In 2009, Blaschak was acquired by Milestone Partners. Since then, about $45 million was invested in the company, Driscoll said. In 2010, Blaschak purchased the Lattimer breaker near Hazleton. In 2011, the company set records for mine production, coal processed and tons sold.

Four years ago, Blaschak Coal Corp. employed 90 people. Today, 130 people work for the company, which operates three mine sites in Hazleton, Mahanoy City and Centralia, and two processing facilities in Hazleton and Mahanoy City.

"They're not huge numbers, but they're certainly in the right direction," Driscoll said., 570-821-2115

Scott K
"Watch Your Top"

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