Destiny has penciled the end to Panther Valley's once mighty anthracite industry.
This weekend more than 1,200 mine and stripping workers wearily trudged out of the pits with little hope of ever returning. Before the last shift ended Friday, employees of the Coaldale Mining Co. and subordinate stripping operations knew the death blow had already been struck.
During the last few days most of the equipment used and stored inside the cavernous mines has been removed. There has been a steady procession of huge pumps, electric motors and other pieces of valuable equipment taken to the surface. Practically all of this machinery, once valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars is destined for the scrap pile and cutter's torch. Crews have already been busy removing the more valuable bronze fittings and pieces from dismantled equipment.
To the miners, this removal of machinery is ominousthe underground workings will be allowed to flood.
Few flooded mines are ever reopened.
Company officials as well as miners hold little or no hope that anyone will ever reopen these mines.
As Norman Richards, Coaldale, company superintendent, points out the removal of the pumps will eventually permit water to flood levels to approximately 1,000 feet above the greatest depth.
At the deepest point, the Coaldale mines dip 120 feet below sea level, and the water may rise to 830 feet above sea level. At this point, a drainage tunnel will carry off the water.
The last of the coal, mined earlier last week, has already been removed to the surface. None of the empty mine cars will be returned to the mines but will be stored temporarily on the outside. Unless a miracle happens these, too, are bound for the scrap heap. The electric “motors” that pull the mine cars will also be removed.
The main power switches that control inside operations were tentatively scheduled to be pulled tomorrow night. However, the action has been temporarily halted by an injunction issued late Friday by the Schuylkill County Court.
According to Richards, a skeleton force of company men will be employed until March 15 to clean up operations. Some of the office force will work for a few months, completing the company’s business affairs.
When these details have been finished, Panther Valley's last mining operations, the No. 8 and No. 9 collieries, will experience the same transition as their predecessors, an abrupt change from bustling activity to deadly silence, rust, and abandonment to the weeds that will spring up along the idle railroad tracks and pathways.
With Coaldale's closing, the valley has heard its last sweet symphony of jarring mine cars, accentuated by the staccato rhythm of the breaker, rumbling mine blasts and the tinkling of miners’ payrolls.
On March 15, most of the miners will receive their final pay checks. For the majority there is only the promise of 30 weeks unemployment compensationand thennothing.