International Coal Group’s proposal for a new longwall mine in Taylor County, W.Va., is back in front of the state Surface Mine Board — for the third time — this week.
Board members have twice overturned the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s approval of the permit, finding that it did not contain enough analysis of — or protections against — the potential for this underground mine to turn into a perpetual source of toxic acid mine drainage.
Scott Depot-based ICG wants to mine about 3.5 million tons of coal a year for more than a dozen years, according to permit records. The operation would employ about 380 workers. The Tygart No. 1 Mine would cover about 6,000 acres underground just southeast of Grafton, adjacent to Tygart Lake and the state part there.
Environmental groups, especially the local Taylor Environmental Advocacy Membership, or TEAM, are concerned about a variety of issues, including subsidence, but are most focused on their belief that the mine will create a perpetual source of acid mine drainage, in violation of U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement policy.
In a 2007 ruling, the Surface Mine Board ordered WVDEP to make ICG submit a new analysis of the mine’s potential impacts on water quality and quantity. After WVDEP reissued the permit, the folks from TEAM appealed again. This time, the Surface Mine Board in 2008 ruled that WVDEP did not properly consider potential acid mine drainage from the mine and approved an inadequate plan to treat that water pollution.
Now, the permit is back at the Surface Mine Board … and the issues are essentially the same: Will the mine create a perpetual source — as it with no defined endpoint — of acid mine drainage? ICG and the WVDEP say it won’t. Citizen groups say it will.