The Greenwood anthracite coal strip mine, which sprawls across 7,500 acres of five towns in Schuylkill and Carbon counties near Tamaqua, reopened today, to fill orders from recovering steelmakers.
BET Associates, the investment firm backed by auto-sales and former tract-housing mogul Bruce E. Toll of Philadelphia and his managing partner Doug Topkis, bought the mine for $11 million last year in a federal bankruptcy court after its former owner, the once-powerful Lehigh Coal & Navigation Co., was unable to refinance operations during the recession and closed.
BET has hired operator Robindale Energy Services, of Armagh, Pa., to run the diggings under the name Lehigh Anthracite. 

Demand for clean-burning hard coal, once a dominant U.S. home and industrial fuel, all but collapsed in competition with cheaper natural gas in the mid-1900s.
But the reopening comes at a lucrative time for hard coal miners: Hard, high-carbon anthracite is now in high demand by US and foreign steelmakers because the cost of coke, the COAL byproduct typically used to heat steel furnaces, has topped $350 a ton, more than twice what anthracite brings, Rusty Taylor, president and chief executive of Robindale (and a Levittown, Bucks County native), told me. (CORRECTED)

Anthracite doesn't replace coke, but it can be mixed in to reduce total coke use in a steel mill, Taylor told me, just as ethanol can be added to gasoline. 

In another local attempt to cash in on high coke prices, Philadelphia-based Sunoco, a major coke producer, hired ex-General Motors boss Frederick "Fritz" Henderson to spin off its Midwestern coke operations in a deal planned for this summer.

Taylor says he's hired 40 workers. The company hopes to boost production to over 300,000 tons a year, and increase the workforce to around 80, which Taylor said will make Greenwood similar in size to other large anthracite operations in eastern Pennsylvania.