Mechel unit pursues Section 404 permit for new coal mine

National Resources Inc. of Beckley, W.Va., is seeking a Section 404 Clean Water Act permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a strip mine project located near Guyan in Wyoming County.

A portion of the proposed project would be constructed in two ephemeral tributaries of McDonald Run, which flow into Big Cub Creek, a tributary of the Guyandotte River, said a Nov. 5 Corps public notice. The Corps office in Huntington, W.Va., will be taking public comment on the application until Dec. 4.

Section 404 permits have been tough to get in recent years due to a barrage of environmental group litigation and a get-tough approach by the Obama Administration Environmental Protection Agency, which advises the Corps during the permitting process.

The McDonald Fork surface mine would also be covered by West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection mine permit #S-4001-10. DEP records show that permit application, filed in February 2010, as still pending.

A total of 1,090 feet (0.06 acre) of ephemeral stream channel would be excavated by mine-though activities in conjunction with the removal of approximately 19.4 million tons of coal from eleven coal seams at the 763.8-acre site. No valley fills are proposed at the site. In order to avoid the discharge of fill material into waters of the U.S., the applicant proposes to place excess overburden onto authorized valley fills at two adjacent sites (WVDEP permits S-4020-96 and S-4021-96) and this placement of fill material would not be within waters of the U.S. and therefore would not require authorization under Section 404 of the CWA, the Corps noted.

To further avoid the discharge of fill material into waters of the U.S., there are no newly proposed sediment impoundment structures at the site. The use of existing, upland impoundment structures would assist in the reduction of temporary and secondary impacts to waters of the U.S. The project life is expected to be approximately 14 years.

The applicant evaluated five mining method alternatives for this project: single seam contour with highwall mining, single seam contour mining, combination area mining with multi-seam contour and highwall mountaintop mining, and underground mining. National Resources also evaluated three alternatives for placement of the overburden material: on-site disposal, off-site disposal in permitted areas, and off-site in non-permitted areas. After a review of each alternative, the company indicated that the combination of area mining with multi-seam contour and highwall mining with off-site overburden storage at two previously authorized surface mine sites (S-4020-96 and S-4021-96) would best meet the project’s needs. Therefore, the applicant stated the preferred alternative as proposed by this application is the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative.

National Resources has no mines listed with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. U.S. Office of Surface Mining data shows the parent of the company is Bluestone Industries, which makes this operation one of those in this region controlled by Russia-based Mechel OAO. The Bluestone mines, bought in May 2009 from coal operator Jim Justice II, are located in McDowell and Wyoming counties in southern West Virginia, near Beckley.

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.