W.Va. permanently halts coal mine by state forest


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia environmental regulators have ordered a company to stop mining permanently at a surface coal mine near Kanawha State Forest.

Keystone Industries LLC signed the consent order with the Department of Environmental Protection last month to permanently halt Kanawha County mining operations near Marmet.

The Kanawha Forest Coalition, which has fought the Keystone Development No. 2 mountaintop removal mine for more than two years, will celebrate with an event Tuesday at the Capitol. The mine was within 588 feet of Kanawha State Forest and 1,500 feet of homes in Loudendale, and its permit allowed explosive blasting, the coalition said.

“This is a victory for the people of West Virginia and a powerful demonstration of the impact citizens can have when we take a stand, stay persistent, and don’t back down,” Coalition coordinator Chad Cordell said in a news release Monday. “Many people thought this strip mine was a done deal when the permit was issued over two years ago, however we doubled down in our determination to protect our streams, health, and mountains.”

No one from the company responded immediately on Monday to telephone message seeking comment. DEP spokeswoman Kelley Gillenwater says Keystone requested the agreement to address multiple patterns of violations. The coalition said mining had been temporarily suspended since early 2015, and about 100 acres of the 413-acre permit area were mined.

The Kanawha Forest Coalition said those violations include: drainage and sediment control failures, off-site erosion, failure to monitor water quality at the mine and in a nearby landowner’s drinking water, and acid mine drainage in Davis Creek tributaries.

The coalition supplied citizen-monitoring data that led to many of the mine’s violations.

The company previously faced cessation orders and violations that halted mining, but left a possibility for mining to resume.

Under the order, Keystone must backfill and regrade the permitted area within nine months.

Gillenwater said much of that work is complete, including about 80 percent of the backfilling.

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