A New Direction For Mining

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Patriot Coal’s legal agreement to end mountaintop removal could signal a more sustainable direction for the industry and the state, according to an environmental group that is a party to the deal. Jim Sconyers, chair of the West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, says now Patriot is free to address its financial troubles, which should be very good news for the company’s employees and retirees.

“That gives them more breathing room to come out of bankruptcy, where they are now, and to figure out how to continue to fulfill the company’s obligations to retired miners and their pensions.”

The Sierra Club was one of three environmental groups that sued Patriot over the harmful pollution from its huge surface mines. Lane Boldman, Sierra Club Cumberland Chapter Mining Committee chair in Kentucky, says the settlement underscores what environmentalists have been saying for years: It’s time to move in a different direction.

“It’s not worth the cost of the health effects; the region needs more jobs, different kinds of jobs; and the easy coal is going away.”

Instead of mountaintop removal, Patriot plans to “transition” to underground and small-scale surface mining. Sconyers says as far as mining what coal there is left, that could actually increase employment.

“Underground mining does employ more people. That’s why the companies have gone to mountaintop removal, because they get coal with less workers and labor.”

Patriot Coal is among the largest mountaintop removal operators in Appalachia. When announcing the move, the company said there would be no layoffs.

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