The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Huntington, W.Va., is taking comment until Dec. 20 on an application by Pocahontas Coal Co. LLC for a Section 404 Clean Water Act permit on the Tommy Creek Highwall Mine No. 1-Devil’s Fork Surface Amendment.
The Corps said this amendment has already been approved under state mining law by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
A highwall miner digs into an exposed highwall (basically a cliff) left over from prior surface mining, mining coal down to a certain depth that is transported out via an attached conveyor system, then is extracted and re-positioned further along the highwall to do it again. Pocahontas Coal is a unit of international commodities producer Metinvest BV.
The proposed project is located about 2.9 miles southeast of Rhodell in the Slab Fork District of Raleigh County. It would result in the discharge of dredged and/or fill material into unnamed tributaries of Devil’s Fork, a tributary of the Guyandotte River.
In January 2012, the Corps authorized Pocahontas Coal to discharge dredged and/or fill material into 1,587 linear feet (lf) of stream channel and 0.10 acres of emergent wetland in order to provide linear transportation for the Tommy Creek Highwall Mine No. 1-Devil’s Fork Surface job (238 acres). That approval was issued under Section 404’s Nationwide Permit program.
The applicant now proposes to discharge fill material into waters of the U.S. associated with the Devil’s Fork Surface Amendment. The project purpose is to mine bituminous coal from the Beckley and Pocahontas No. 6 coal seams.
The proposed Devil’s Fork Surface Amendment (25.34 acres) would result in the discharge of about 232.4 cubic yards of fill material into a total of 2,538 lf of stream channel, 2.016 acres of wetland, and 0.348 acres of open water within unnamed tributaries of Devil’s Fork. This project would allow for the extraction of approximately 230,000 tons of bituminous coal over a four year period.