Expanding Coal Mines Threaten the Heart of the Laurel Highlands

LCT Energy, LP is a metallurgical coal producer headquartered in Johnstown, PA. Many Fayette and Westmoreland County residents are already familiar with the company, as it operates the Rustic Ridge Mine on County Line Road. The Rustic Ridge I Mine permit area currently encompasses around 2,800 acres for underground mining and approximately 68 acres for the surface site.  LCT has been working to expand its operations in the heart of the Laurel Highlands for quite some time. In February of 2021, LCT filed for an exploration of an additional 5,000 acre area, which includes the headwaters to the Jacobs Creek Watershed and the Loyalhanna Creek Watershed. Residents in these areas are particularly reliant on high quality springs and well water. LCT also filed for an expansion of its current underground permit in October, 2021, seeking to add around 1,400 acres. The approval for this expansion is still pending.  

Additionally, despite operating deep underground mines for the majority of its work in the area, LCT also recently filed for an exploration of around 170 acres located on the north side of Three Mile Hill, in what is termed the Laurelville Exploration. There is historical surface mining in that area that has been reclaimed, and the coal seam is reportedly too shallow for a deep mine, indicating further surface mining if LCT chooses to proceed with operations in that location. This area is of particular concern due to previous discharge and water loss issues. 

Most recently, in August of this year, LCT filed a pre-application for a second mine, Rustic Ridge II. The company is proposing an underground mine of over 2,600 acres, with the mine portal on the surface covering approximately 65 acres. The entrance to the new mine would be located off of Clay Pike Road. The map provided below gives a visual of the active Rustic Ridge I operation and the proposed Rustic Ridge II operation, showing just how much land is already, and how much may be, impacted by the operation of these mines.

The possibility of another deep mine in the area is concerning to local residents, and understandably so, as the Rustic Ridge I Mine has struggled with issues relating to subsidence and private water concerns. Since the beginning of its operation, the Rustic Ridge I Mine has had 16 complaints regarding water quality and water quantity issues, and 7 complaints concerning subsidence that has impacted local residents’ homes. Issues and concerns have also been expressed by local residents regarding: truck traffic and road conditions; coal dust and air quality; disruption of residential life; noise and lighting; and impacts to tourism and recreation. Residents and community members have also reported negative experiences in trying to communicate any issues they are experiencing with company executives and other employees.

The Mountain Watershed Association will be hosting a “Know Your Rights” meeting with a focus on the proposed Rustic Ridge II Mine that all are welcome to attend. The meeting will be held on November 1st, 6:30 pm, at Saint Raymond’s Church, 164 School House Lane, Donegal, PA 15628, and will also be offered online via Zoom. You can register to attend here bit.ly/RusticRidgeIIPublicMeeting

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Stacey Magda, Community Organizer, at stacey@mtwatershed.com or Maddie Hinkle, Community Advocate, at madison@mtwatershed.com