The Cliffs Logan County Coal LLC unit of Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE: CLF) is seeking a Section 404 Clean Water Act permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Toney Fork No. 3 strip mine project in Logan and Boone counties, W.Va.
The Corps office in Huntington, W.Va., is taking public comment on the application until Dec. 28.
The Toney Fork No. 3 (S-5007-09) mine permit application is currently being reviewed by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA), the Corps noted. The proposed project is located about 2 miles northeast of Lorado in the Washington District of Boone County and the Triadelphia District of Logan County. It would result in the discharge of dredged or fill material into unnamed tributaries of (and) Dennison Fork and Spruce Laurel Fork.
“The applicant proposes to discharge approximately 587 cubic yards of fill material into a total of 9,468 linear feet (lf) of stream channel during the operation of surface coal mining activities,” said a Corps public notice. “Recovery of coal reserves within the Toney Fork Surface Mine No. 3 SMCRA permit area would be accomplished via a combination of surface extraction methods including area and contour mining. The discharge of fill material into waters of the U.S. would occur during the construction of two (2) valley fills, their associated sediment control structures, and one (1) mine-through area. During valley fill construction, rock to be placed in-stream as an underdrain system would permanently fill 4,800 lf of intermittent stream channel and 3,470 lf of ephemeral stream channel. The sediment control structures would temporarily fill 166 lf of perennial stream channel, 793 lf of intermittent stream channel and 140 lf of ephemeral stream channel. The proposed mine-through activities would permanently fill 141 lf of ephemeral stream channel.”
The applicant’s latest mine plan incorporates the following measures to minimize impacts to aquatic resources:
- reduction of the overall project size by 437 acres;
- elimination of valley fills for the permanent storage of excess overburden resulting in the reduction of discharge of fill material into 13,095 lf of waters of the U.S.;
- transporting 4,170,000 cubic yards of excess overburden off-site to an adjacent mine site; and
- utilizing existing access roads in order to provide linear transportation.
“As a result of these avoidance and minimization measures, the proposed alternative would result in filling approximately 9,468 lf of stream channel, and would allow the extraction of approximately 1,150,000 tons of coal annually, for ten (10) years,” the Corps noted.
WVDEP records show that the June 2009 application for the SMCRA permit on this project, filed by a predecessor company, INR-WV Operating LLC, was still pending as of Nov. 28. That application covers 764 acres and mining of various seams and seam splits, including the Stockton, Winifrede and Coalburg.
Cliffs Logan County mines both metallurgical and steam coal
Cliffs Natural Resources said about this operation in its Feb. 16 Form 10-K annual report: “Cliffs Logan County Coal (CLCC) property is located within Boone, Logan and Wyoming counties in southern West Virginia. CLCC currently produces metallurgical and thermal coal from surface and underground mines that are served by a preparation plant and unit-train load out facility on the CSXT. Two underground mines, the Powellton No. 1 and Dingess-Chilton Mines, produce high-volatile metallurgical coal using room and pillar retreat mining methods using continuous miner equipment. The Toney Fork No. 2 surface mine produces thermal coal with a combination of contour strip area mining and point removal methods.”
The Toney Fork No. 2 mine has been in operation since 2005, the Form 10-K added. Over the past four years, Toney Fork No. 2 has produced between 1.2 million and 1.5 million tons of coal annually.
WVDEP records show that:
- On Feb. 29 of this year a permit was issued to Cliffs Logan County Coal for the 271-acre Toney Fork West strip mine, with that site currently classified as “active, no coal removed.”
- The permit for Toney Fork No. 2, which currently covers 1,115 acres, was first issued in 1998 at 872 acres in size. It is currently held by Cliffs Logan County Coal. A Nov. 8 site inspection report from the WVDEP shows the mine as “active, moving coal,” with 480 acres of the permit area disturbed up to that point and 391 acres reclaimed. Those figures, compared with the total permit acres, indicate a mine in the middle of its life.