Virginia Makes Final Decision to Deny Dangerous Wise County Strip Mine
Local Residents Have Long Opposed the Controversial Project
BIG STONE GAP, VA – Late last week the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) made a final decision to deny the Ison Rock Ridge Surface Mine permit after an appeal by A&G Coal Corporation, the coal company applying for the permit. DMME made its initial decision to deny the permit in February 2013. Last week’s decision is the final word from the agency, with all administrative appeal processes now exhausted. A&G has until April 13th to challenge DMME’s decision in Virginia state court.
“I was thrilled to hear that the DMME has upheld the decision of Administrative Hearing Officer Costanzo and denied the appeal of A&G once again,” said Judy Needham. “With the administrative appeals exhausted, I hope A&G will not pursue the matter in our courts. Whatever they decide to do, we will keep fighting for Ison Rock Ridge. Each victory gives us strength to keep fighting.”
For years the prospect of a new mountaintop removal mine, with increased blasting, dust, truck traffic and sedimentation of the streams has hung over the town of Appalachia like a black cloud. The four valley fills proposed for the operation threatened to bury headwater streams and increase concentrations of toxic pollutants in streams like Callahan Creek, which is already legally recognized as impaired. Such pollution is especially dangerous for women and young children, and more than 20 peer-reviewed studies since 2010 have shown a connection between proximity to mountaintop removal operations like Ison Rock Ridge and poor health outcomes, including higher cancer, heart, lung, and kidney disease rates.
“We have been fighting against this proposed mountaintop removal mine for eight years because if permitted, it would bring heavy impacts to the town of Appalachia and its surrounding, historical coalcamps. I am very pleased with this decision” said Jane Branham, Vice President of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards.
“This decision is a major victory for the communities of Appalachia, who have suffered for far too long from the devastating effects of mountaintop removal mining,” said David Muhly, Senior Organizing Manager for the Sierra Club in Southwest Virginia “Mountaintop removal mines like those operated by A&G have already taken too high a toll on our communities, and an ever growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that this practice has serious consequences for human health and local ecosystems. It’s time to start building a sustainable economy that protects Virginia’s natural beauty and the health of Wise County residents.”