Clear Fork Mine Permit

Public Hearing Set for Claiborne County Surface Mine

By Cathie Bird

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has announced a public meeting and hearing set for May 6th on the proposed Clear Fork surface mine in Claiborne County, Tennessee. The hearings will be held jointly with the federal Office of Surface Mining, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

The agencies will hold a preliminary meeting with the public from 3:00-5:00 p.m. for discussion and review of the permit applications and plans. The formal public hearings will begin at 6:00 p.m. to receive public comments concerning the proposed issuance of SMCRA and NPDES permits to Kopper Glo Mining LLC for operation of the mine.

Claiborne County already has much land that has been torn apart by more than 100 years of surface mining. The proposed 550 acre permit area for Clear Fork mine will include some land that has not been disturbed for many years and is returning to health as a forested ecosystem.

Many streams in Claiborne County already show high levels of conductivity (bad for fish and aquatic life) as a result of the mining-related pollutants. The Clear Fork mine would discharge pollutants into headwaters of three streams at 14 different discharge points.

Blackside Dace, Phoxinus cumberlandens. Photo credit: Dick Biggins, USFWS

One of the streams that would receive discharges from the mine, Straight Creek, has anExceptional Tennessee Waters designation because it is home for the Blackside Dace. Listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the Blackside Dace can be hurt by toxic metals such as those released during coal mining operations. Clear Fork Creek is also a protected zone that serves as a migration corridor for this fish.

In addition to concerns about water quality degradation, claims that this mine represents a “social and economic necessity” is disputed by SOCM members who have pointed out for 40+ years that Kopper Glo and other coal companies don’t produce real economic returns or social benefits for the communities they operate in. If coal mining is good for the economy, why is this county so poor after having been mined for decades?

You can help stop further destruction of this area by attending the public hearing and submitting formal comments on the Clear Fork surface mine application to TDEC. You can speak at the hearing or email comments to the permit writer,Gary.Mullins@tn.gov. You can also mail comments to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Division of Water Resources, Mining Section, 3711 Middlebrook Pike, Knoxville, TN 37921-6538.

If you are submitting comments, please reference NPDES permit TN0069809. Comments submitted before May 16th will be included in the hearing record.

Location for the hearings on May 6th, 2014:

(Public Meeting for Discussion and Permit Review from 3 to 5pm; Public Hearing Starting at 6:00 p.m. EDT)

TDEC Knoxville Environmental Field Office

Large Conference Room

3711 Middlebrook Pike

Knoxville, Tennessee

For more information from SOCM, contact Brad Wright at brad@socm.org or 615-355-9356. You can also email the SOCM E3 Committee at E3@socm.org.

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