“I have been fighting this mine since before it was put in the ground and now I am falling into it,”noted one resident who lives in the footprint of LCT Energy’s Rustic Ridge Deep Mine in Saltlick and Donegal Townships.
Over the past several months, Mountain Watershed Association has learned of at least five homes in the footprint of the deep mine that are experiencing significant mine subsidence issues. Mine subsidence occurs when underground mining operations, either active or abandoned, cause the earth’s surface to shift. These shifts can damage homes and other built structures, causing cracks in foundations, walls, and roofs.
According to residents, three of the five properties impacted by subsidence have suffered serious damage, such as cracks in walls and foundations that appear to continually grow, as well as doors and windows that close on their own, or do not open at all. Some properties have cracks in floors measuring ¼” to ½” wide – with the earth visible through the cracks. Formal reports note that LCT does “not deny that mining operations may have caused” damage on the properties. Neighbors have reported that the damage of at least one home may be irreparable, meaning that LCT Energy may need to buy-out the property if the damages cannot be fixed.
This creates new concerns for residents: what if other houses around them are deemed irreparable, bought-out, and then simply abandoned? The coal industry has a long history of buying up damaged properties then abandoning them, since there are few ways to force companies to eliminate blighted structures. The presence of abandoned houses could leave neighbors with the feeling of living in a ‘ghost town’, ultimately impacting the values of nearby properties.
Other concerns include the continued road impacts from dust coming from the mine. Neighbors continue to observe a dark, soot-like material on County Line Road that originates from the mine entrance and follows along the apparent truck route. The road dust continues to occur despite efforts by the mine company to brush and clean the road. Residents noticed heavy dust blowing off coal trucks, which accumulates on the snow and thaws into a thick soot-like substance, which ultimately drains into Champion Creek. MWA continues to monitor the water quality and has filed formal complaints with the DEP, passing along the neighbors concerns.
As of January 2021, LCT Energy is actively mining just northwest of the intersection of Hellien School Road and County Line Road, with the entire permitted footprint of Rustic Ridge spanning nearly 3,000 underground acres in Saltlick and Donegal Townships. In addition, LCT has started to explore the possibility of expanding the mine’s footprint. The expansion area would be out towards Acme Dam/Chestnut Ridge Lake Park and under the PA turnpike, towards Donegal proper and the Stahlstown area. We urge residents in those areas to get involved to gain a better understanding of the scope of the mining operations and the many ways residents might be impacted. We encourage residents in that area to see these reports of property damage as a serious warning of what may lay ahead if the mine is allowed to expand. All are invited to quarterly meetings to learn more and review updated information. Contact Stacey Magda at email@example.com for more information.
If you are a property owner and are experiencing subsidence issues that you suspect are a result of the mine, please file a complaint with LCT by contacting either Pete Mack 814-254-4065 or Jason McGinnis 724-787-5572. After filing a complaint with LCT we recommend you follow up with the DEP to confirm the complaint has been filed with them. You can reach out to Jarrod Shultz, DEP Field Inspector, at 724-769-1057 (cell), or firstname.lastname@example.org. MWA also works to track impacts and complaints, please let us know if you are experiencing issues and have filed a complaint to ensure a full scope of impacts is being documented.