Citizens Fight New Mines and Mining Problems in West Virginia

Mountaintop Removal on Coal River Mountain

By Willie Dodson

Citizens continue to fight mountaintop removal mining happening in West Virginia. Republic Energy, a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources, has been moving forward with a large mountaintop removal mine on Coal River Mountain in Raleigh County. The mine consists of five permits so far, some of which have been granted for years and others that have just been issued or are still pending approval. The mine complex includes the Long Ridge permit, the Middle Ridge permit and the Eagle 2 permit.

On May 9, the West Virginia Surface Mine Board decided not to hear an appeal of the issuance of Republic’s Long Ridge permit. Coal River Mountain Watch, a local nonprofit organization, had appealed the new mining permit due to concerns about the health impacts of surface mining and Alpha’s poor track record.

The Surface Mine Board stated that they dismissed the appeal because it was filed after the deadline. However, Coal River Mountain Watch had based the timing of their appeal on information provided by the state Division of Mining and Reclamation.

On May 16, a citizen complaint about improper sediment and drainage control on Republic’s Middle Ridge mine compelled the state to issue a Notice of Violation. This is the fifth documented violation at this mine.

The future of the Eagle 2 mining permit remains uncertain. In January, a federal judge ordered the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to consider terminating the Eagle 2 permit in light of evidence that the unstarted permit had been improperly extended.

Fighting for Reclamation Around Kanawha State Forest

By Willie Dodson

On April 4 in Kanawha County, W.Va., members of the Kanawha Forest Coalition accompanied staff of the West Virginia Dept. of Environmental Protection on a site visit to the KD #1, Rush Creek and Rush Creek #2 surface mines operated by Keystone Energy. These mines are all in the process of being reclaimed.

During the visit, members of the coalition identified widespread problems with sediment control, erosion, reclamation failures, acid drainage and other issues. The organization submitted a report detailing their findings to the state agency, and requested a meeting to discuss enforcement and mitigation plans.

Keystone Energy was required to bring the now shut-down KD #2 surface mine into compliance with the terms of a consent decree signed by the company and the DEP by April 27. The Kanawha Forest Coalition conducted an aerial inspection of the site on April 28, which disclosed large areas without vegetative cover, erosion and sedimentation of streams, unpermitted discharges and other problems demonstrating that Keystone Energy is not in compliance with the consent decree.

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