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Municipal News

By J.R. Brower

Many residents of Nottingham Township as well as some Peters residents attended an informal public conference held on Wednesday afternoon, May 20 at the Peters Township Recreation Center. Held by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the topic of discussion was a pending application by RAM Mining LLC to operate a deep coal mine beneath 61 acres of land primarily in Nottingham Township, with a smaller portion in Peters.

Ram DEP Meeting1 Joel Koricich
DEP District Mining Manager Joel Koricich led the meeting

DEP District Mining Manager Joel Koricich opened the meeting with a presentation about the company's intentions to reopen the former Mathies Mine at a portal off Little Mingo Road. He said that Mathies closed around the year 2000. After that, the mine was operated as Mon View Mining Company, which declared bankruptcy under litigation over seven years ago.

In 2013, Nottingham Township approved the conditional use application for RAM Mining with 62 conditions based upon strong public opposition to the proposed project. RAM agreed to abide by the conditions and submitted their pre-application to DEP. Koricich said that the application was formally accepted for review by DEP on February 25, 2015. He added that the department is currently conducting the initial technical review of the application.

The mining method, according to the application, will be room and pillar, and Koricich said that the depth of cover will range from just 50 feet to 425 feet, with the average being 200 feet. He estimated the life of the mine to be between 8 to 12 years.

Strong opposition to the mine emerged in 2013 when residents banded together to form a grassroots group known as Protectors of Mingo, which is supported by the Center for Coalfield Justice, a non-profit organization concerned with public safety and environmental issues. The Protectors of Mingo group has already challenged RAM in 2014, calling their wastewater treatment plan faulty, which resulted in the company submitting a new plan. Of primary concern of the group is the well-being of Mingo County Park and the relatively pristine creeks flowing through it and around it. The proposed mine is only several miles upstream from the entrance to the park.

Most of those who spoke in opposition to the mine belong to Protectors of Mingo, and they came to the meeting wearing their group's T-shirts and holding signs saying, "DEP: Say No To Ram Mining LLC!"

The first to speak was Maryann Pike, who lives on Little Mingo Road. She said that the road is narrow and would be unable to handle coal truck traffic projected to average about 280 trucks per day. She said, "This mine has absolutely no benefits at all to the community, and the DEP should deny their application."

Sue Ryaby, whose horse farm is right next to the proposed mine, challenged the DEP's own mission statement, which states that the purpose of the agency itself is to "provide health, safety and well-being of the community." She was also concerned about polluted runoff from coal waste piles as well as the safety of children and bicyclists along Little Mingo Road. "The health of the animals, fish in the creeks and general public is very important to me," she concluded.

Dennis Franks, who also lives closeby to the proposed mine, said he felt that an impact study of the combined effects of coal mining and natural gas drilling in the area should be done. He said, "I feel strongly that the application should be denied solely for the sake of the health and safety of our children."

Ram DEP Meeting2 Maryann Pike
Maryann Pike said that the mine has no benefits to the community.

Speaking next was Lorraine Noel, who lives at the corner of Little Mingo and Sugar Run Roads. She said she was concerned with the health of fish in the streams, which would be adversely affected by mine runoff. "This mine will not only destroy my view but will ruin my pursuit of happiness," she exclaimed. She said that when the mine was in the hands of Mon View Mining, her well water was polluted. She also mentioned that the electric lines in her area would not be equipped to handle the high voltage needed for this type of mining operation.

Nick Ryaby, Sue's husband, argued as well that Little Mingo Road would not be able to handle the coal truck traffic. He also mentioned that RAM has no history of success in mining coal, and that there is a possibility that the company would over extend itself and possibly sell out to foreign interests like the Chinese, whose demand for coal is huge.

Laurie Franks, Dennis' husband, said she was concerned with mine subsidence, which was prevalent in the area when Mathies Mine was in operation during the '70s and '80s. She also said that her uncle was a miner at Mathies and was badly injured in a roof collapse. "This new mine would put lives at risk", she concluded.

Ron Ramsey said he lives about 10,000 feet from the portal. He said, because of the proposed mine, "there are many homes around me for sale, and they are not selling."

Debra Metenel said, "The lack of the attention to details in RAM's application is unbelievable." Her husband, Mike, said the company has not done any type of background studies, and like many other members of the Protectors of

Ram DEP Meeting3 Dennis Franks
Dennis Franks said the DEP should deny RAM's application for reasons of health and safety.

Mingo, he questioned RAM's ability to even make a profit on the mine. The company had indicated in 2013 that they are seeking metallurgical coal from the seam which they intend to sell to local steel companies in the Mon Valley and elsewhere.

The last resident to speak was Art Sullivan, a coal miner himself, who expressed concern for the safety of miners in the new mine, which in some areas has a depth of cover of only 50 feet. He said he thinks RAM is exaggerating their future production. "If they mine 750,000 tons of coal per year like they say they will, it will be the most productive coal mine in the world."

 

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