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