Conservation Groups Raise Concerns about Impact of Proposed Mine on Wildlife and Water

Nashville, TN – Local and national conservation groups are raising concerns about the degradation of local creeks and the Clear Fork of the Cumberland River by the proposed 578-acre Clear Fork Surface Mine in Claiborne County, Tennessee.

The Tennessee Clean Water Network (“TCWN”), Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (“SOCM”), have filed a petition with the Tennessee Board of Water Quality, Oil and Gas to seek review of the decision by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (“TDEC”) that degradation of Rock Creek, Straight Creek and the Clear Fork of the Cumberland River is justified by economic and social necessity.

“The last thing Claiborne County needs is another strip mine,” said TCWN attorney Stephanie Matheny.  “Strip mining does not provide sustainable economic opportunities, harms the quality of life for people who live in the nearby communities and decimates water quality.”

The groups allege that TDEC violated Tennessee’s Antidegradation Statement, which prohibits lowering of water quality in Exceptional Tennessee Waters, including several of the receiving streams for the Clear Fork mine, except in very limited circumstances.

“The antidegradation rule is not a mere formality,” explained Axel Ringe of the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club.  “It requires TDEC to show that alternatives to more pollution – including better treatment – are not feasible.  The mining company also has to demonstrate that degradation is economically or socially necessary and will not harm existing water quality.  None of that happened here.”

The organizations are particularly concerned that this mine, along with several other new mines recently proposed in the same vicinity, might further harm the federally threatened blackside dace.  “Blackside dace are barely surviving in the Clear Fork watershed.  The health of this little fish is linked to our own health. If our waters are too polluted for the dace, they will be too polluted for the local community as well,” said Jane Davenport, attorney for Defenders of Wildlife.

“We support the development of a vibrant economy for local residents that also preserves water quality and community vitality. This mine is only likely to operate for a few short years, yet the detrimental results will impact the community for years to come,” added Ann League of SOCM.

For a copy of the petition and other documents, go to www.tcwn.org/cleanwater1.

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