By Brian Sewell
A mountaintop removal permit in West Virginia is causing significant backlash because of its proximity to a cherished state forest and residential areas.
Located along the eastern boundary of Kanawha State Forest in Kanawha County and a few miles from downtown Charleston, the 414-acre KD Mine No. 2 received approval from regulators in May. But the Kanawha Forest Coalition, a group of residents opposing the mine, is pressuring the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to rescind the permit.
In early July, nearly 200 residents gathered to discuss ways to block the mine. The group started a petition to Gov. Tomblin, and also plans to appeal the permit before the West Virginia Surface Mining Board of Review in August.
As it stands, the permit allows Florida-based Keystone Industries to mine within 1,500 feet of some homes, which the coalition contends will lower property values, increase the risk of flooding and put forest visitors at risk from dust and flyrock from blasting. But DEP official Harold Ward told reporters that the permit would not have been approved if his agency was not confident in the proposed mining and reclamation processes. According to the DEP, mining company personnel will check at-risk areas before blasting to make sure no hikers are in danger — a measure opponents say is far from foolproof.
Mining has not yet begun, but DEP has already issued two violations to Keystone for not properly constructing ditches required before the trees on the site are clearcut. The agency also received a formal complaint from the Kanawha Forest Coalition and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition about the violations.