Largest Surface Coal Mine Stopped in Claiborne County

Knoxville, TN —  Organizations working with local residents learned this week that Kopper Glo Mining, LLC withdrew its state permit application to strip mine 578 acres on King Mountain near Clairfield, Tennessee. This decision comes just a month after state and national environmental groups appealed a determination by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (“TDEC”) that degradation of local streams by this coal mine was justified by economic and social necessity.

“I think Kopper Glo made a good choice to withdraw the permit application,” said Carol Judy, a Claiborne County resident and member of Tennessee Clean Water Network. “This decision will allow future generations to enjoy King Mountain and will allow the mountain to continue recovering from past strip mining damage. I’m glad my community will not be dealing with yet another surface mine because the waters in these mountains are irreplaceable headwater streams that are important to so many people in my community and to communities downstream.”

The proposed coal mine would have discharged wastewater from 14 sediment ponds to Rock Creek, Straight Creek, and the Clear Fork of the Cumberland River. These streams are already failing to meet state water quality standards due to extensive mining and logging in the area. The federally threatened fish, blackside dace, have been documented in Straight Creek, and use the Clear Fork as a seasonal movement corridor.

“This is very exciting news. I worry a lot about the streams in my community and it’s a relief to know that there will be one less strip mine degrading our waters,” said Vickie Terry, a member of Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment and the Sierra Club who lives near the proposed mine. “When I was last on King Mountain, I remember taking pictures and thinking that I would be one of the last people to see this beautiful landscape. I am so thankful that now there’s a chance that my children and grandchildren will not need pictures to remember King Mountain.”

Kopper Glo first submitted its application for a permit to discharge pollutants in August 2009. In June 2010, it submitted a revised application, asking TDEC to issue a permit covering a larger area with more outfalls. In July 2012, TDEC held a public hearing regarding the proposed degradation of Exceptional Tennessee Waters by this mine.

Despite comments asking it to deny the permit, TDEC issued a decision on June 10, 2013 that would have allowed degradation of Tennessee waters.  On July 9, 2013, the Tennessee Clean Water Network, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife appealed this decision, arguing the mine would harm water quality without benefiting the local community. The groups learned from TDEC on August 9, 2013 that Kopper Glo had chosen to withdraw its permit application instead of defending the administrative appeal.

For more information and copies of key documents, seehttp://www.tcwn.org/cleanwater1.

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