Poconos Coal

The future of Pennsylvania coal country

MAHONOY CITY, Pa. - The coal industry has high hopes for its future under the Trump administration. In fact, a new mine opened recently in Somerset County. 

To get some perspective, 69 News went to Mahanoy City and to Blaschak Coal Corporation, a company based in Schuylkill County, to discuss the future of the industry.

"All of the anthracite that is produced in the United States comes out of about a hundred square miles with this sort of as its center," said Blaschak President Greg Driscoll.

"In the news, when they talk about coal, they're talking about coal being burned in power plants. That is not what anthracite is."

Anthracite is used in things like pizza ovens, steel making, and residential heaters.

The company pulls several hundred thousand tons of coal out of their Primrose Mine every year.

But, things have changed overall for the industry.

"At one time, in this region in Pennsylvania, there were two hundred thousand miners working underground mines, producing a hundred million tons of anthracite. Today we produce about two million," said Driscoll.

For a lot of the workers left, it's a way of life.

"My entire family has been into the mining business all their lives, you know? Something that's in our blood," said dragline operator Joe Brennan, Jr.

The work is hard, but he loves it.

"I just like being able to come out on a mountain you know and run big machines," he said with a dry laugh.

While Driscoll thinks there's a strong demand for coal, he is realistic.

"We will never see the United States producing a billion tons of coal a year like they once did," he said. "Natural gas is easier to burn, it's plentiful, it's easier to handle."

He also realizes many environmentalists and people in government want the coal industry to close completely.

He thinks mining should be regulated, but he also believes some regulation goes too far.

"I think it's short sighted, I'm a believer that we've been blessed with resources. Those resources include the sun and the wind. But they also include oil and gas and coal," he said.

He's proud of what they contribute to the local economy, and says they are committed to environmental responsibility.

In the end, as long as people want the coal, there will be guys who want to mine it.

"I'll be in here until I fall over," said Brennan.

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