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Consol focusing on reducing accident severity in 2013

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Consol Energy said despite a "tragic fatality"in the final quarter of 2012, overall its operations have produced new safety records company-wide. The company aims to improve on that record in 2013.

A coal slurry impoundment gave way several weeks ago. One heavy equipment operator was trapped in the water and died.

Mine safety experts have largely determined that a 200-foot-by-200-foot section of the impoundment gave way because construction on the site was pushed ahead to quickly.

"CONSOL's mines and gas operations ran well during the quarter," said J. Brett Harvey, chairman and chief executive officer in an announcement of fourth quarter operational results. "Substantial improvements in safety have been realized during the year and new records have been set all across the company.  Yet in the fourth quarter, we suffered a tragic fatality."

Harvey added that the company will focus 2013 efforts on reducing severity of incidents while "maintaining the pace of overall accident reduction we've achieved the past five years."

Consol's overall production was down almost a million tons of coal the last quarter to 14.3 million tons. Annual coal production is down as well, from 62 million in 2011 to 56 million in 2012.

"Most of the 2012 reduction in coal production was due to the company's efforts to control inventory," Consol's fourth quarter statement reads. "Several mines were idled during 2012, as the company continually sought to match production and sales."

Struggling against reduced demand for coal has been affecting the bottom line of a lot of coal companies, particularly those who operate in the Appalachian region. Domestic demand has been sharply reduced while opponents like natural gas sell for lower prices and regulations make it more difficult to mine and burn coal.

Consol also produces natural gas. Its gas production actually increased in 2012. Fourth quarter gas production was up by about 5 percent.

Consol also wrote it is ready to move its Utica shale operations in Ohio from exploratory status to development mode.