Walter Energy unit permits new surface mine in Alabama

Taft Coal Sales & Associates Inc., which is a unit of Walter Energy (NYSE: WLT), is seeking from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a Section 404 Clean Water Act permit on the Robbins Road strip mine project located near Parrish in Walker County, Ala.

The streams on-site are unnamed tributaries to Lost Creek, said a Corps public notice. The Corps office in Mobile, Ala., is taking public comment on the application until Oct. 31.

“The applicant proposes to surface area mine 573 acres, which includes the discharge of dredged and/or fill material into waters of the United States,” the Corps said. “These activities would impact 2,500 linear feet of intermittent streams, 2,523 linear feet of ephemeral streams, 2.15 acres of scrub shrub wetlands, and 0.19 acre of open water impoundments. A portion of the property has been previously disturbed during prelaw mining operations at the site. As a result, unreclaimed highwalls and associated open waters are located within in the project area.”

Taft Coal Sales has stated that total avoidance of all waters of the U.S. was not possible due to the location of the coal seams, topography of the project area, and the location of the adjacent topographic features, the Corps noted. It has reduced the project boundary, thereby reducing impacts to ephemeral streams from 3,970 linear feet to 2,523 linear feet. The Corps said it has not verified the adequacy of the applicant’s avoidance and minimization statement at this time. The company proposes to compensate for unavoidable stream and wetland impacts by conducting on-site permittee responsible mitigation following completion of the coal removal.

Taft Coal Sales has two strip mines – Choctaw and Reid School – currently listed with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The Walter Minerals unit of Walter Energy, with annual production of nearly 1.5 million tons, produces coal for the Alabama steam and industrial coal markets, said the Walter Energy website. “Walter Minerals operates through two primary businesses: Taft Coal Sales & Associates (‘Taft’), a central Alabama surface coal producer with steam, industrial and metallurgical coal reserves, and Tuscaloosa Resources, Inc. (TRI) which has historically produced approximately 800,000 tons of high BTU, primarily low sulfur coal per year for the industrial and electric utility markets,” the website added.

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.