The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Louisville, Ky., issued only two standard Section 404 Clean Water Act permits to the coal industry in the second quarter of this year, both for operations in Indiana.
Considering that the Louisville office also does permitting for the prolific coalfields of eastern and western Kentucky, and for the Illinois coalfields, as well, two permits in a quarter is not many. Corps permitting of coal mining operations has been tied up in recent years by environmental group lawsuits and a get-tough permitting policy imposed on the Corps by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since soon after the start of the Obama Administration in January 2009.
A July 13 notice from the Louisville Corps office said the coal permits issued in the second quarter are for:
- Surface coal mining by Liberty Mine LLC and Vigo Coal at the Liberty mine in Warrick County, Ind. This permit was issued April 6. U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration shows this mine, listed with that agency under Vigo Coal Operating, as a new mine with no recorded production yet.
- Discharge of fill and/or dredged material at the Freelandville Complex of Triad Mining in Pike County, Ind. This permit was issued June 26. Triad, a unit of James River Coal (NASDAQ: JRCC), has two mines named Freelandville listed with MSHA. There is the Freelandville strip job, that produced 62,114 tons in the first half of this year and 341,691 tons in all of 2011. And there is the Freelandville East strip job, that produced 161,915 tons in the first half of this year and 168,297 tons in all of 2011.
Incidentally, aluminum-maker Alcoa (NYSE: AA) is mentioned in the Corps notice related to the Vigo/Liberty mine. That is because Alcoa uses Vigo as a contractor to produce coal for its Warrick power plant in Indiana.
Said Alcoa’s Feb. 16 annual Form 10-K report: “[Alcoa Power Generating] generates substantially all of the power used at the company’s Warrick smelter using nearby coal reserves. Since May 2005, Alcoa has owned the nearby Friendsville, Illinois coal reserves, with the mine being operated by Vigo Coal Company, Inc. The mine is producing approximately one million tons of coal per year. In June 2011, the Red Brush West Mine, owned by Alcoa and operated by Vigo Coal, was opened and will produce approximately 60,000 tons per month over an eighteen-month period. In 2011, the two owned mines provided approximately 61% of the Warrick power plant’s requirements. The balance of the coal used is purchased principally from local Illinois Basin coal producers pursuant to term contracts of varying duration.”