The Sierra Club, Hoosier Environmental Council and the Conservation Law Center filed written objections on July 22 to a federal permit request for a proposed surface coal mine that the groups claimed would destroy more than 18 miles of streams near the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge.
The project’s developer, Vigo Coal, has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a Section 404 Clean Water Act permit, which would allow the company to dredge or fill 98,000 feet of streams, 28 acres of open waters, and seven acres of wetlands in and around Pike County, Ind., in order to mine coal at the proposed Vigo Sunna mine, the groups noted in a July 24 statement.
“From toxic water contamination to the loss of local headwater streams, this coal mine could threaten wildlife, harm waterways and damage other natural resources both locally and downstream,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “It will be impossible to replace the natural streams, waterways, and wetlands that would be destroyed by this project.”
“The proposed 1,500-acre Vigo Sunna surface coal mine has the potential to harm water quality and put outdoor recreation activities in and nearby the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge at risk,” said Tim Maloney, senior policy director of the Hoosier Environmental Council.
The Vigo Sunna LLC project would be located on unnamed tributaries and adjacent wetlands and open waters to Cup Creek and Houchin Ditch in Pike County. It would result in the discharge of fill and/or dredged material into “waters of the United States” on a majority of a 1,498-acre site, which is pretty big for a surface mine under one permit. The company is also seeking approval for this project by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources under mine permit No. S-00369.
Approximately 35% (524 acres) of the project boundary has been impacted previously as a result of surface coal mining operations, the Corps said in a May public notice. The previously impacted surface mined areas were worked mostly prior to passage of a 1977 federal surface mining law, which means the property was not reclaimed.
Vigo Sunna has no current mines listed with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration under that company name. The company’s office address is the same as prominent Indiana coal producer Vigo Coal.