JULIAN, W.Va. — Joined by several members of his cabinet, representatives of the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund and former president of Marshall University Gary White, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin hosted a press conference and tour of the much anticipated former Hobet Mine site in Boone County May 12.
Tomblin first announced the massive project which aims to tap thousands of acres of land on the border of Boone and Lincoln counties for industrial development in his 2016 State of the State Address.
Mining began on the Hobet site in 1973, and throughout the years it is estimated the site produced around 135 million tons of coal.
Now, the site, which stretches for a length of eight miles and a width of two miles, consists mostly of long-reclaimed land which officials state could easily be worked into parcels of flat land surpassing the 500 acre mark.
Tomblin explained he was approached about the property during the bankruptcy of Patriot Coal and noted he was happy to have a partner like the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund going forward.
Tomblin commented the site is home to “…more flat land than the city of Huntington,” and pointed to the massive potential for development as a game changer for the struggling region.
Officials say the site is 90 percent reclaimed and much of the remaining activity on the site remains focused on reclamation.
During the event, Tomblin and members of the various and diffuse teams surrounding the Hobet project explained the current state of the project and elucidated some of the challenges and upcoming milestones the massive undertaking faces.
As with most projects of similar ilk, the main issues with the former Hobet site center on infrastructure — namely transportation.
Secretary of the W.Va. Department of Transportation Paul Mattox explained planning for a 2.6 mile road connecting U.S. Route 119 the site’s existing coal-haul road is currently underway saying his department hopes to award a bid for construction of the road in October 2016.
With three-phase power and natural gas infrastructure currently on the site, the team stated they hope to tie placement of remaining utilities like water, sewer and data into the construction of the road.
The 2.6 mile road will become the site’s main entrance with the existing road remaining as an alternative route.
Once construction of the road is completed, officials stated site preparation and marketing can begin in earnest.
The first phase of development could see commercial and industrial development across 4,000 acres of site.
“Finding good, developable flat land in West Virginia is a constant problem. It is essential not for the next six months but the for next 60 years that we have a strategy that allows southern West Virginia to be truly diversified,” added Keith Burdette, W.Va.Secretary of Commerce.
Owen Wells is a reporter for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1729 or by email at [email protected]