U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers has ruled that a surface mine in Clay county can continue to operate past a proposed January 23 shutdown date.

The ruling allows Consol Energy to operate its Fola Coal mine and avert the layoffs of up to 500 employees.

Consol announced earlier it would lay off workers because of Chambers' October 2008 decision to suspend fill permits needed to keep the mine operating.

That ruling was based on Fola Coal ignoring the permitting requirements.

Chambers says the mine can continue using several valley fill permits while the case continues through the courts.

Chambers noted that environmental groups who brought the action did not oppose the move.

Consol says mining should resume next week.

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