Consolidation Coal Co., the nation's second largest producer of bituminous coal, has agreed to pay $370,000 to women in three states it refused to hire as coal miners because of their sex, a Department of Interior lawyer said yesterday.

The out-of-court settlement came in response to a complaint field a year and a half ago by women, alleging that the Pittsburgh-based firm had discriminated against Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania women in its hiring practices between 1972 and 1976.

The company faced a possible law suit and loss of government contracts if it failed to comply with a presidential order banning discrimination on the basis of sex, said Sharon White, the Interior Department's assistant solicitor for equal opportunity compliance.

Consolidated Coal chairman E. R. Samples said the settlement does not represent an admission of discrimination, but was "the expedient way to get the thing behind us.

"It was better to settle than to fight the thing in court which ultimately could have been very costly," said Samples in a phone interview.

Samples said the company, which employs about 21,000 people, has revised its hiring practices and now has "quite a large representation of females in the work force. Since 1975 we have been hiring females at a rapid rate."