Arch Coal unit seeks Corps permit for West Virginia strip mine

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Huntington, W.Va., will be taking public comment until Dec. 28 on a Section 404 Clean Water Act permit application from Coal-Mac Inc., d/b/a Phoenix-Coal-Mac Mining Inc., on a surface mining project in Logan County, W.Va.

The proposed project is located about 2 miles southwest of Omar in Logan County. A portion of the proposed project would be constructed in unnamed tributaries of/and Pine Creek, Oldhouse Branch, and Cow Creek.

“The applicant proposes to discharge fill material into waters of the United States (U.S.) to facilitate the removal of bituminous coal at the Pine Creek No. 2 Surface Mine,” said a Corps public notice. “The applicant is requesting authorization to discharge fill material into nine jurisdictional stream segments in conjunction with the construction of an under-drain structure for one valley fill (Valley Fill No. 2), embankment structures for two sediment control ponds (Sediment Pond No. 2 and 2A), one permanent in-stream road crossing, two temporary in-stream road crossings, and three mine-through activities at the site. The applicant has applied to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) for the required Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) permit (S-5008-09), which is currently pending.”

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection records show that this SMCRA permit was actually issued on Oct. 29, covers 696.81 acres and allows mining of various seams and seam splits, including the 5 Block, Coalburg and Stockton.

Coal-Mac, a unit of Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI), re-evaluated its original mine plan to determine if additional avoidance and minimization could occur on-site, the Corps notice said. The original SMCRA-approved mining plan covered 832.58 acres and would have required the discharge of fill material into approximately 11,988 feet of intermittent and ephemeral stream channel (1.64 acres). Implementation of this mining plan would have required two valley fills and four sediment ponds and would have produced about 15.83 million tons of coal over the life of the mine. The mining plan was re-designed to reduce the footprint of the SMCRA-authorized mining area to 696.81 acres. The discharge of fill material into waters of the U.S. would be reduced to 8,274 feet (1.245 acres) thereby resulting in the elimination of Valley Fill No. 1. The revised mining plan would produce approximately 14.75 million tons, a reduction of 1.08 million tons. The revised mining plan would result in the avoidance of impacts to 3,841 feet.

Section 404 permits have gotten pretty tough to get in recent years due to numerous environmental group lawsuits and a get-tough approach by the Obama Administration’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which advises the Corps during the permitting process. Arch Coal is currently at a federal appeals court, against EPA, defending its Corps-issued permit for the Spruce No. 1 strip mine in Logan County.

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.