Update: Mining On Coal River Mountain
Jun 18, 2012
Although there are 3 approved mountaintop removal permits on Coal River Mountain, there is currently no strip mining occurring on the mountain. However, mining could be resumed at any time:
Mining on the Bee Tree permit was idled in May 2012, due to a drop in international demand. Before mining stopped, Marfork had destroyed about 75 acres of the 1,090-acre permit. Miners are still working on the permit preforming reclamation activities and, if coal market conditions improve, mining could resume at any time.
The 250-acre Collins Fork Permit has been approved but mining has not yet started. Coal River Mountain Watch appealed the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)'s decision to approve this permit to the state Surface Mine Board. We argued that the DEP failed to properly evaluate the cumulative effects of strip mining in the watershed of the Clear Fork of the Coal River, including the impact on human health. DEP also refused to grant CRMW an inspection of the permit prior to the permit hearing and the agency also blatantly disregarded a statute requiring the permit hearing to be held within 3 weeks of the public comment period; instead the hearing was held 3 years later. The Surface Mine Board issued its decision last month. Despite agreeing that the DEP "flagrantly" violated the law regarding public input and comment on the permit, the Board did not reverse the DEP's approval of the permit. We are considering appealing the case to the state Supreme Court.
The 2,000-acre Eagle II permit should be null and void according to federal law, which requires mining to commence within three years of the permit being granted unless an extension is obtained. Marfork failed to begin mining or apply for an extension for the Eagle II permit within two years, but the DEP retroactively granted them an extension. Last week, the federal Office of Surface Mining responded to a citizen complaint from Coal River Mountain Watch and agreed that the DEP's actions were “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.”
The Leather Leaf permit application was terminated this spring and we are awaiting to see if it will be resubmitted in a different form. We suspect it will be resubmitted with a reduction in size.