CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Surface Mine Board is deciding whether to revoke a permit for a surface mining operation located near Kanawha State Forest.
Testimony ended Wednesday in a hearing over the Keystone Industries KD No. 2 mine permit issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The board hearing began on Aug. 11 and resumed Wednesday. The board is expected to take a month or more to rule on the case after final briefs are filed and reviewed.
Keystone Industries was issued a state permit to mine on more than 400 acres. As a condition of the permit, Keystone agreed not to use state forest roads for access, coal hauling or other mine-related activity.
Several environmental groups have opposed the mining operation.
The Charleston Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/1v0cusp) that among those who testified at the hearing was state Division of Natural Resources Director Frank Jezioro, who said he took issue with a statement checked on the title page of Keystone's surface mine permit indicating that no public park or recreation area would be adversely affected by allowing the company to mine an area near the forest's eastern boundary over the next 10 years.
"The impacts would be noise, view and disruption of hiking trails from blasting," Jezioro said during questioning by Tom Rist, an attorney for the group appealing the permit.
Jezioro said he first learned of the plan to open the new surface mine in 2010. Later, he said, the state Department of Environmental Protection "raised the issue that the DNR would have to participate in the permit process" because the planned mining operation "had the potential" to impact the forest. He said his agency agreed to sign off on Keystone's mining permit after the company announced last November that it was scaling back its plans for the mine by nearly 200 acres.
The operator of the mine the company is paying a 10-cent per ton mitigation fee — expected to total more than $700 million over the 10-year life of the mine — to be paid to the Division of Natural Resources. It also has pledged to dredge the silt-laden fishing pond at the entrance to Kanawha State Forest, a project valued at about $200,000.
"We realize mining is a temporary inconvenience, and we try to minimize its impact," said Jeff Hoops, president and CEO of Revelation Mining, the company in charge of production work at the mine, adding that he has "no expectation that any damage would be done to the park."