Unlike the winter when business usually picks up, the season of sunburns reminds them that anthracite isn't the biggest commodity on the world market, demand can decrease and layoffs can occur.
"That makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I dislike it and impacting people's lives is a heavy burden,"
Blaschak's employs "about 150" full-time workers, Driscoll said. In spring 2013, Blaschak's laid off "about 100" of them for a month. On
"Most of the industry did it for most of the last 12 months. The pricing and the market is in a very difficult place, and summer is our slow period. Most of our business is heating-related. Because of where the market is today, we have temporarily shut down all of our mining activity for a month. We do that because we have plenty of feedstock on the ground already that we've mined and we can continue to keep our processing plants full. And it's not advantageous for us to be spending money when we're not selling as much," Driscoll said.
But not all coal companies have seasonal layoffs.
When asked about the future of the industry, Rich said Wednesday he was confident it would get brighter and brighter.
"Look at the world demand for coal. It's projected to go higher. As long as we intend to use steel and electricity, coal will be an integral part of that in
Whatever the future holds for the anthracite coal industry, a few things are certain, according to Driscoll, Rich and the website for the
"We're always looking for opportunities in the world market," Rich said.
Blaschak operates three active strip mines:
"Blaschak holds mining permits covering approximately 2,000 acres and is operating on the
During a seasonal layoff, Driscoll considers strategies to market anthracite and spur research to find other uses for its high-carbon content.
"We're curious about emerging technologies. Right now, we're working with consultants. We're evaluating research ideas that could drive the long-term value of our anthracite products. We're trying to rebuild the industry and bring it back. And I believe it could have a bright future. We have a great product," Driscoll said.
Driscoll believes its high carbon content is a key to its future.
"Anthracite contains the highest proportion of pure carbon -- about 86 to 98 percent -- and has the highest heat value -- 13,500 to 15,600 British thermal units per pound -- of all forms of coal," according to www.encyclopedia.com.
"If you look at carbon, either for heat, chemical processing or other applications, anthracite, this is a great product for that and I think in recent years Blaschak and the rest of the industry has been doing a better job of promoting those benefits throughout the marketplace. But anthracite coal prices are still at their lowest level since 2009," Driscoll said.
It may not affect the anthracite business immediately, Driscoll said.
"We sell most of our coal for industrial and home heating applications, so it won't have a direct impact on us. However, as with a lot of things, our coal is used in some similar markets as some bituminous products. As that market changes, there might be some impacts on us. But it's hard to tell if those impacts will be positive or negative. It could impact co-generation plants. We don't run any of those facilities. We supply rock refuse and silt to some, but it's not our main business," Driscoll said.
Founded in 1871, Reading Anthracite, has "between 500 to 600" employees, according to Rich. It runs numerous companies, including two co-generation plants,
Rich isn't concerned about the plan.
"They established the levels that we must achieve using 2005 as the baseline, and we're well on our way to achieving that goal already," he said.
Its goal is to slash
Rich called the plan "political window dressing." And he did not think it was taking a historic step to fight climate change.
"The natural retirement of facilities that are obsolete will achieve their result, what they've identified as their goal. So, through natural attrition, they'll achieve this step they've identified. It's really not all that historic. It's a political, expedient way of distracting the population," Rich said.
Driscoll sees the anthracite business becoming "more structured and profitable."
"This industry has evolved over the years from the way it was back in the late 19th century, when it was big companies servicing other big companies. From there, it went to families operating almost on a cash basis and mining when they could. Now, it's reverting again to professional investment and the industry becoming more of a professionally invested industry," Driscoll said.
"Most Anthracite reserves are found in the five counties of
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