EPA nixes mountain mining plans
January 13, 2011
The US Environmental Protection Agency has revoked a permit for what would have been the country’s largest mountaintop coal mine.
Mountaintop mining is controversial because it strips trees and rocks to expose coal seams near a mountain’s summit. The debris is often dumped in valleys below, impacting water quality and wildlife (see Mountaintop mining plans close to defeat)
Mining company Arch Coal wanted to extract coal from the Spruce Mine in the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia. They had obtained approval from the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for the nation’s mineral resources, in 2007.
This is the first time such a permit has been revoked. “The proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine would use destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and clean water on which they depend,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Peter S. Silva in a statement.
The statement continues:
EPA’s decision to stop mining waste discharges to high quality streams at the Spruce No. 1 mine was based on several major environmental and water quality concerns. The proposed mine project would have:
Disposed of 110 million cubic yards of coal mine waste into streams.
Buried more than six miles of high-quality streams in Logan County, West Virginia with millions of tons of mining waste from the dynamiting of more than 2,200 acres of mountains and forestlands.
Buried more than 35,000 feet of high-quality streams under mining waste, which will eliminate all fish, small invertebrates, salamanders, and other wildlife that live in them.
Polluted downstream waters as a result of burying these streams.
Caused downstream watershed degradation that will kill wildlife, impact birdlife, reduce habitat value, and increase susceptibility to toxic algal blooms.
Inadequately mitigated for the mine’s environmental impacts by not replacing streams being buried, and attempting to use stormwater ditches as compensation for natural stream losses.
“We believe this decision will have a chilling effect on future U.S. investment,” said company spokeswoman Kim Link in a statement. (AP)
This isn’t the end. As Nature noted last year:
“The move is likely to set the tone for decisions on other mining projects. More than 100 surface-mining permits are pending approval with the Army Corps of Engineers.”
Dept. of Just-us censors report on fatal mine accident
The Department of Justice has asked the US Mine Safety and Health Administration to delay public hearings and refrain from releasing documents in connection with an investigation of the deadliest US coal mining accident in 40 years.
The MSHA and the DOJ have both been investigating an explosion at the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia, on April 5 that killed 29 miners.
But disclosure about the case “poses a serious risk of hindering the criminal investigation into events at UBB,” R. Booth Goodwin II, US attorney with the Southern District of West Virginia, told MSHA in a letter.
MSHA, which is part of the Department of Labor, will comply with the request, Solicitor of Labor Patricia Smith said Friday.
“From the very beginning, we have exercised extreme caution to ensure that DOJ has had every opportunity to run its own investigation,” Smith said in a statement. “We have no intention of jeopardizing those efforts. Therefore, we’ve agreed to honor that department’s request. We remain committed to holding public hearings and making the transcripts available once we are assured by the criminal prosecutors that doing so will not impede their ability to bring any wrongdoers to justice.”