Proposed Va. Mountaintop Coal Mine Challenged

June 10, 2010

Environmental activists said they are challenging a proposed mountaintop removal coal mine in southwest Virginia, citing concerns about streams and residents in three isolated communities.

The 1,300-acre Ison Rock Ridge mine proposed by A&G Coal Corp. would operate above the communities of Andover, Appalachia and Inman. They are located in the far southwest corner of the state near the Kentucky line.

Glen Besa of the Sierra Club said the mine would be one of the largest surface operations in Virginia. He contends the proposed mining operation does not comply with the requirements of federal and state surface mining laws.

The club's Virginia chapter and the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards said they have filed a formal administrative challenge with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. The agency deemed A&G's application "technically complete" last month but has not issued a formal permit to begin mining.

Spokesman Mike Abbott said Wednesday the department had not yet received the environmental challenge. It was filed on Tuesday.

The environmental groups said the mine would destroy three miles of streams and fill nine valleys with more than 11 million cubic yards of rock and dirt.

A&G, which is based in Wise, did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

The mining practice of mountaintop removal involves the use of explosives to expose seams of coal. The rubble is dumped into valleys.

Besa said the Ison Rock Ridge mine is "caught in a limbo" with the Environmental Protection Agency objecting to a pollutant discharge permit for the mine and the Army Corps of Engineers denying A&G permission to construct valley fills in the streams.

"We have to keep our opposition to the mine alive and pursue all the remedies we have," he said.

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