Community Groups Cheer Rejection of Dangerous Surface Mine
The town and coal camps of Appalachia can breathe a sigh of relief today after learning that A & G Coal Corporation has been denied a permit to strip mine Ison Rock Ridge near Appalachia. The 1,200-acre permit, located behind the town of Appalachia and between the coal camps of Inman and Derby, would have had intense impacts on residents already affected by decades of mountaintop removal coal mining.
The permit application was technically approved by the Department of Mines Minerals and Energy in May of 2010 but has been held up for its failure to adhere to water quality standards in nearby Callahan Creek. Further, Southern Coal, which owns A & G, is required to resolve at least four outstanding violations in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, before the permit could be issued. Finally, the permit is being denied due to A & G’s inactivity on the application for at least 2 years.
The Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards have argued against this dangerous surface mine since 2009. Based in Appalachia, SAMS’ membership includes residents of the coal camps adjacent to the proposed permit. SAMS applauds the DMME’s move to deny this dangerous strip mine.
A & G is contesting this decision, and an informal hearing was held today at the DMME office in which coalfield citizens applauded the DMMEs efforts in denying the permit.
SAMS has argued instead for community leaders to get behind efforts to diversify the local economy, and for politicians to give as much support to developing new industries that can sustain our economy as they do to propping up a coal industry failing in the face of natural gas, dwindling reserves and cheaper western coal.
Sam Broach, president of SAMS said, “Preserving our clean mountain water, protecting our productive forests and making this a place businesses want to move to is a key part of building an economy built to last the next 100 years. Stopping the destruction of Ison Rock Ridge is an important first step. ”
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 area like a black cloud. The four valley fills included in the operation threatened to bury headwater streams and increase concentrations of toxic heavy metals in streams, like Callahan Creek, already legally recognized as impaired.
Judy Needham, SAMS member and resident of the coal camp of Andover, reacted to the news: “after living for years with blasting from A & G’s operations on Kelly’s Branch, the idea of another strip mine above Andover, was just too much to consider. Blasting has impacted so many communities already. Enough is enough.” 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.
This type of mountaintop removal mining is a last ditch effort by the coal industry to extract profits from a dwindling supply in an increasingly competitive fuel market. “Coal executives realize that coal production and markets for Appalachian coal are declining”, said SAMS’ board member Judiana Stines. “As those reserves go down, companies will move elsewhere, leaving mass destruction, more poverty, and severe health problems behind. It is up to us, to stand together, united, and speak out against this permit, and against the destruction of any more mountains. We want to let citizens know that we can be their voice if they need one, and that SAMS is here to stay and build a brighter, healthier and cleaner tomorrow.” Stopping the destruction of Ison Rock Ridge is an important first step.