A reply from January 29 2001'Postcard from the Nanty Glo in my Mind'

Hi Jon,

Bethlehem's "Big Mine" (Mine 33) near Ebensburg was shut down in 1994. (You may have confused 33 with the nearby cogeneration plant). To "celebrate"  this event they had caps printed "Out the Door in 94".  Bethlehem's coal was a high quality metallurgical coal used to make coke for the steel industry.  The closing of the mine was probably due to several factors, but probably most importantly the mine was planned for a 20-year production run.  The coal reserves were nearly worked out and operation was probably becoming inefficient due to long haulage and that the most economically retrievable coal was already extracted.
Due to improvements in technology, the amount of coal need to make a ton of coke was greatly reduced. Combined with the replacement of steel with plastic in manufacturing and competition from foreign steel and mini-mills, and competition from foreign sources of coal,  the demand for local met coal died. Bethlehem attempted to enter the steam coal market to sell to electric generation plants but was never very successful due to the high cost of underground mining.  This is complicated by the fact that the coal is medium to  high in sulfur content and would need to be burned in plants with sulfur reduction systems.  Finally, western coal from Montana and Wyoming made inroads to some of the markets formerly served by western Pennsylvania coal. 
The result is that there are no large mining operations left in Cambria County. Most of the existing operations are strip mining operations and reclamation projects to process the old 'rock dumps" to fuel the local cogeneration plants. 
The New Economy has not been kind to the area as reflected in a news article published in the Tribune Democrat a few months ago. A recent study has shown that the per-capita income of Cambria County is SECOND LOWEST in the state, one notch above Somerset County. The wages from the quick-shops and Wal-Marts pale in comparison to the wages garnered in the unionized coal and steel industries.
George R. Warholic
Rockville, MD


Webmaster's reply: Thank you so much, George, for your post about Cambria County mining. I've seen the cogeneration plant where Bethlehem's mine used to be (close enough to confuse the two) and assumed it was just an expansion of the mine. I even photographed the site from 22 near Munster thinking I'd have use for it on the Home Page some time, and would have captioned it "Bethlehem's Ebensburg operation." How "out of the loop" you can be when you're living 2500 miles away. What is the product of the cogeneration plant used for? Now you know why I call it "the Nanty Glo in my mind"!

best, jon

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