The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection said in an Oct. 3 public notice that its water division has gotten an application for issuance of an Article 11/West Virginia National Pollutant Discharge Elimination permit from the ICG Eastern LLC unit of Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI).
The permit is needed “in order to construct a deep mine portal face-up area via box-cut to be located in the Alma seam of coal as well as mining of the Alma seam reserve area,” said the notice about an operation to be located in Mingo County. “Also to be constructed under this application will be sediment control facilities, conveyor belts, supply storage and maintenance areas as well as associated mine management and bathhouse facilities. The portal area will be located near the confluence of the Lower Honey Branch of Jennie Creek watershed. This operation will bond 39.8 acres and the proposed primary Post Mining Land Use will be unmanaged forestland and the secondary Post Mining Land Use is to be residential housing. The operation will discharge treated and storm water into an unnamed tributary of/and Lower Honey Branch of/and Jennie Creek of the Tug Fork River of the Tug River. This operation is located 3.8 miles southwest of Breeden in Mingo County, West Virginia.”
This permitting is part of the oft-delayed Jennie Creek mine project. Coal operator Larry Addington had years ago split off this property from the unionized Marrowbone Development properties next door. Surface mining was permitted on the site in the 2001-2004 period, but never started. This is one of the properties that International Coal Group, which was acquired by Arch last year, got out of a 2004 bankruptcy sale of assets of Horizon Natural Resources, which was founded by Addington. ICG began permitting a deep mine here in 2009 in the Alma seam, to go along with the strip mines.
Said ICG about this property in its February 2011 annual Form 10-K report: “The Jennie Creek reserve, located in Mingo County, West Virginia, is a 41.8 million ton reserve of surface and deep mineable steam coal. This property contains 14.2 million tons of surface mineable, low-sulfur coal reserves and 27.6 million tons of high-Btu, mid-sulfur underground reserves in the Alma seam. Efforts are underway to secure an Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 authorization to complete permitting for surface mining on this property. We intend to produce the coal by area, contour and highwall mining. Also, permitting is now in progress for an Alma seam underground mine. Development of the property is dependent upon future market conditions.”
DEP records show that all three of the Jennie Creek surface mines have had their permitted acres reduced since the initial mine permits were issued, with Jennie Creek No. 3 now at 274 acres, Jennie Creek No. 2 at 828 acres and Jennie Creek No. 1 at 261 acres. No. 3 and No. 2 are shown by the DEP as not started yet, while No. 1 is shown as “active, no coal removed.” A Sept. 20 DEP inspection report on the No. 1 site shows that 76 acres of the permit area had been disturbed up to that point and 61 acres reclaimed. There is also a 2001 permit for a Jennie Creek prep plant that the DEP database shows as not started.
The Lower Honey Branch deep mine that was the subject of the Oct. 3 notice about the water permit application is about to get a mine permit from the DEP’s mining division. Agency records show the August 2009 application for that mine permit moved on Oct. 2 from a DEP regional office to the agency’s main office for final approval. Such approvals by the main office usually come pretty quickly, unless there is some last-minute issue, like a protest by local citizens.