Jim Justice operation permitting two strip mines in McDowell County

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection said in a June 29 public notice that an application for a surface mine permit by Justice Low Seam Mining Inc. has been marked technically complete.

“This application is for an Article 3 permit for the surface disturbance of approximately 190.38 acres in order to Surface Mine in the Pocahontas 8, Pocahontas 9, Pocahontas 9L, Lower Horsepen, Pocahontas 10, Pocahontas 11, C, Middle Horsepen, Upper Horsepen, Lower Seaboard, Sewell, Greasy Creek seam of coal,” said the notice. The permit area is located near Bishop in McDowell County.

The public notice marks the fact that on June 28, this February 2011 application on the Bishop WV strip mine was deemed as administratively complete, which is an interim step that means the application blanks have now been filled in properly and the application can get full processing on its merits.

The only other pending mine permit application for Justice Low Seam Mining was filed in March 2011 for the 441-acre Big Creek surface mine, located near Squire in McDowell County. This mine would work various seams, including several splits of the Pocahontas seam, which holds a high quality metallurgical coal.

Justice Low Seam Mining has no operations listed with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration under that corporate name. U.S. Office of Surface Mining data shows the company as 51% owned by coal operator James “Jim” Justice II, and 35% owned by his son, James “Jay” Justice III.

The only issued DEP permit for Justice Low Seam Mining out of the agency’s mining division is a prospecting permit issued in 2010. But, the OSM database shows that on Feb. 9, Virginia regulators issued to the company a mine permit for the 299-acre Dalton Branch surface mine in Tazewell County. OSM data shows Chestnut Land Holdings LLC, another Justice company, as the operator at Dalton Branch.

The only current MSHA listing for Chestnut Land Holdings is for the “active” Bishop Impoundment Area in McDowell County, W.Va. The MSHA registration for that operation was transferred in May 2011 from Consolidation Coal Co., a unit of CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX). It had been listed under Consolidation Coal since 1985.

OSM data shows that Chestnut Land Holdings was first listed with that agency in June 2011 and that it is 100% owned by James C. Justice Companies Inc.

Jim Justice has coal mining operations under the name Southern Coal Corp., but that company’s website doesn’t indicate that Justice Low Seam Mining or Chestnut Land Holdings are among them. “Southern Coal Corporation is wholly owned by the Justice Family and headquartered in Beckley, West Virginia,” said the website. “The Company was formed as the parent company to incorporate various coal assets separately held by the Justice Family, including: A&G Coal Corporation, Sequoia Energy, LLC, Premium Coal Company, Inc., and Tams Management, Inc.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.