Deep Mining in Donegal & Saltlick?

Several years ago LCT Energy submitted a Notice of Intent to Explore (NOI) to the PA Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) for an underground mine in the Donegal & Saltlick areas of the Indian Creek watershed– an area often referred to as the “gateway to the Laurel Highlands.”¬† They recently followed this NOI with a pre-application‚ÄĒthe next step in the permitting process.¬† ¬†Representatives of the company are currently in the area gathering information and are testing private water supplies near the proposed mining.¬† Please be aware that without your permission, they have no right to access your property or your water supply.¬† We recommend having your water tested by an independent PA-DEP certified laboratory in addition to the testing conducted by the mining company.¬† Contact us for more information on water testing or to review a copy of the pre-application.¬† Below is a map of the proposed mining area with some local landmarks highlighted.¬† The green solid outline is the proposed deep mining area.¬† The red dashed outline is the location of the surface activities, and the round dots are the location of proposed bore holes.¬† The map below is the most recent copy as submitted to PADEP.

Proposed Donegal/Saltlick Deep Mine

LCT Energy is targeting metallurgical (or “met”) coal in their mining.¬† Though we aren’t sure of the destination for the coal in this particular proposal, we do know that much of the metallurgical coal currently mined in the Yough watershed is being shipped overseas.¬† Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey‚Äôs office recently released a report entitled ‚ÄúOur Pain, Their Gain‚ÄĚ about the subject of exporting coal. ¬†From the report:

One of the coal industry’s favorite ads in recent years displays an orange power cord plugged directly into a piece of coal. The picture is accompanied by words assuring the viewer that coal is cheap, reliable and a key to the nation’s domestic energy security. The message for Americans is that coal equals electricity in the United States, and to tamper with that would be to tamper with our way of life.

A more truthful ad would unplug the power cord and replace it with an oceangoing freightliner bound for steel mills and power plants across Europe, South America, China and India.

Some additional highlights:

  • Coal exports now account for nearly 12% of U.S. coal production, and have nearly doubled since 2009.¬† Three out of every four tons the United States exports come from the Appalachian region.
  • Of the 97 surface mines in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Virginia that exported coal in 2011, 25 of these mines exported more than half of their production in 2011.

The history of deep mining in the Indian Creek watershed, and much of the Yough as well, is one of acidic discharges, aluminum contamination, and loss of pristine headwater streams.  The Indian Creek watershed is approximately 125 square miles and contains over 130 discharges from abandoned coal mines.  These discharges have resulted in contamination of surface water, wells and springs for decades, and Indian Creek, which flows into the Youghiogheny River above Connellsville, has for years had a negative effect on water quality in the Yough.  Through our comprehensive plan we intend to treat the 11 worst discharges in the Indian Creek watershed.  This should restore it by over 95%.  We currently have five passive mine drainage treatment systems on the ground and have plans for two more.  Our treatment systems and efforts by other watershed associations across the basin have been very successful in improving water quality throughout the Yough.  Given the success of our existing restoration activities and the tendency for mining in this watershed to produce discharges, a newly proposed deep mine is quite troubling.

Keep in mind this proposal has not yet turned into a full application.¬† We’ll keep you posted, and in the meantime please contact us with any questions.