Economic Impacts of the Rustic Ridge Deep Mine

Looking to get away from the city of Greensburg, Jennifer Bertha and her family have had their hopes set on moving to a quiet mountain town. When they found a house for sale on Ruff Lane in Donegal, the family felt they had found the perfect match.  “The house checked off for us across the board. We loved it, and it was move-in ready,” Jennifer noted.

That was until their real estate agent informed them that the home was in the footprint of LCT Energy’s Rustic Ridge Deep Mine, with the entrance to the mine just over 1,000 feet away. The seller of a home and their agent are legally required to disclose anything that may affect the value or desirability of a home – which includes a nearby deep mine. However, by the time Jennifer and her partner found out about the mine, they had already made an offer on the home. So, they had to work quickly to rescind it.

“The traffic and pollution is exactly what we’re trying to get away from, and a coal mine is going to bring all of that with it,” Jennifer noted. “Sadly, while we look at other houses for sale, Donegal and the surrounding area is off the radar for us.”

Jennifer’s opinion is not unfounded. Families nearby mining operations are often subjected to noise from construction, increased truck traffic, air pollution, water loss, and risk of subsidence. In addition, residents near the opening of deep mines often experience repeated blastings to open up the shaft of the mine. While Corsa Coal opened the Acosta Deep Mine in Friedens, PA this year, a local family experienced the blaring siren, blasting, and subsequent shaking of their home 61 times over a period of a few months.  

As a result, the disturbances associated with coal mining operations can significantly lower property values. In fact, in a letter written in 2006, a local real estate agent determined the value of a home on Keslar School Road in Acme nearby other potential coal mining operations. At first, the agent assessed the property at $193,300. However, after including the potential impacts of a strip mine and deep mine within 1,500 feet of the home, the estimated value was reduced to as low as $75,000 – a loss of up to $118,300.

The effect on property values is just one of the ways that the Rustic Ridge Deep Mine is already impacting the local economy of Donegal and Saltlick Townships. Based on recent studies, the estimated yearly cost of local road maintenance from increased use for the deep mine could exceed $100,000. Further, over $8 million has already been spent remediating toxic discharges from previous coal mines, and these costs continue to rise as a result of necessary yearly maintenance. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that the economic benefit of these remediation efforts is nearly $900,000 for increased fishing recreation alone. However, a new mine discharge in the watershed threatens the economic and environmental gains from years of cleanup efforts.

Too often, coal companies such at LCT Energy state the assumed economic benefits of mining operations without accounting for the costs endured by the community. Already, the proposed mine is turning people away from the area and making homes harder to sell. If mining operations are allowed to continue, then these economic burdens are likely to increase.

Mountain Watershed Association has challenged the Department of Environmental Protection’s approval of LCT’s permit for the Rustic Ridge Deep Mine, and the hearing on the case has been scheduled before Judge Bernard A. Labuskes, Jr. beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, January 29, 2018 at the Pittsburgh office of the Environmental Hearing Board. The hearing is open to the public, so concerned residents and other stakeholders are encouraged to attend the hearing. If you are interested in attending the hearing or staying involved with the planning process, contact Ashley at or 724-455-4200×6#.