CHARLESTON - The mining division of the Environmental Protection Agency says that a permit application submitting for a proposed Mingo County mine cannot be issued without significant changes to the plans for the mine.
Jon Capacasa, the Director of the Water Protection Division of the EPA, told Tom Clarke, Director of Mining and Reclamation with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, that at 2,300 acres, the Buffalo Mountain Surface Mine proposed by Consol of Kentucky is among the largest single mining projects ever proposed in Appalachia.
In a letter to the Division of Mining, Capacasa said the mine has received a variance from the law requiring the mine be reclaimed to approximate original contour.
Since the company would not have to return the land as close to the original terrain as possible, nearly ten miles of high quality headwater streams will be buried under waste rock and dirt in 13 valley fills at the site.
The scale and magnitude of environmental and water quality impacts from the mine as currently proposed are as significant as any mining operation we have reviewed in the past 20 years, Capacasa said.
In the letter, Capacasa told the DEP that the proposed permit doesnt have adequate pollution monitoring or discharge limits.
The draft permit is not as stringent as necessary to protect state water quality standards, Capacasa said.
However, the letter said the site could be mined in a cost effective way.
The mining operators proposal indicates that feasible, cost effective steps are available to be incorporated into the operation to avoid and minimize the significant adverse environmental and water quality impacts associated with the Buffalo Mountain Mine.
Consol, which didnt immediately comment, wants to mine 16 million tons of coal over 14 years. The King Coal Highway would be built on some of the mined-out land, saving the state Division of Highways more than $110 million.
On Wednesday, the Federal Highway Administration and the Division of Highways announced they would conduct an additional study of the potential environmental impacts of the highway, with a focus on the Buffalo Mountain mining project.
Capacasa said that while the impact on the local mining industry would be significant, the negative consequences outweigh the financial benefits.
The draft permit inappropriately includes alternative, less stringent limitations for iron and aluminum at certain outfalls that are not justified by the applicants socio-economic analysis.
Tom Clarke says his office is reviewing the EPAs letter.
Well certainly look at the letter and determine how to respond, he said. Weve had some constructive discussions with them.
But the EPA has long expressed concerns about the project, objecting to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit on the day of President Barack Obamas inauguration.
Calls made to Consol were not returned to the Daily News.