Patriot Coal to End Mountaintop Removal Mining
The State Journal
15 November 2012
Patriot Coal Corp. announced its intention Nov. 15 to phase out
mountaintop mining and other large-scale surface mining in
The announcement came as part of an agreement over water pollution
lawsuits filed by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the
Sierra Club and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.
St. Louis-based Patriot sought approval from the groups for an
extension to the schedule under which the company is required —
pursuant to a court order and settlement resolving prior
litigation with the groups — to install expensive pollution
controls at several mines in West Virginia.
According to the agreement, the company will not seek any more
permits for "large scale surface mining" — that is, those
requiring valley fills.
Patriot will retire significant infrastructure required to perform
mountaintop removal mining, including the dragline at its Catenary
mine complex, which will be retired immediately, and the dragline
at its Hobet mine complex, which will be retired in 2015.
And it agreed to ratchet down its production from surface mining,
from 6.5 million tons in 2014 to 6 million in 2015 and 2016, 5
million in 2017 and 3 million in 2018 and thereafter.
In return, Patriot will have additional time to install selenium
treatment at several of its mines.
"Patriot Coal has concluded that the continuation or expansion of
surface mining, particularly large scale surface mining of the
type common in central Appalachia, is not in its long term
interests," the company said in a prepared statement.
"Patriot Coal recognizes that our mining operations impact the
communities in which we operate in significant ways, and we are
committed to maximizing the benefits of this agreement for our
stakeholders, including our employees and neighbors," the
statement read. "We believe the proposed settlement will result in
a reduction of our environmental footprint."
Patriot said the settlement is consistent with its business plan
to focus on more profitable metallurgical coal production and to
limit thermal coal investments to selective opportunities "where
geologic and regulatory risks are minimized."
The company, which also is in bankruptcy proceedings, said the
proposed agreement would allow it to postpone $27 million in
expenses to 2014 and beyond and would improve its chances of
emerging from bankruptcy as a viable enterprise.
The environmental groups cheered the settlement.
"We hope that this agreement, while holding Patriot responsible
for its legacy of mining pollution, puts the company in a strong
enough financial condition through its underground mining that it
can honor its obligations to its retirees and workers," said
Dianne Bady of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.
The Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and the West
Virginia Highlands Conservancy were represented in the matter by
Joe Lovett and Derek Teaney of Appalachian Mountain Advocates. The
agreement was announced during a proceeding before Judge Robert
Chambers of the US District Court for the Southern District of