After two months of frenetic activity, the rush of events connected with the proposed reopening of the Rosa Mine by MCoal Corporation has taken an apparent breather following the informal conference held here on Sept. 15 by the Alabama Surface Mining Commission.
Speaking for the Rosa Mine Watchdog Committee, resident Jerry Gordon- Hellman said that the seeming absence of activity may be misleading.
“We’re continuing to work on the case,” he said. “We’ve talked to an attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, and we may decide to request a formal administrative hearing.” He said such a request would delay issuance of the mining permit currently being considered by the mining commission.
“That process gets into some financial dimensions, but we could become part of a joint action with the Black Warrior Riverkeeper and the Alabama Rivers Alliance. We’re going to pursue this to the very best of our ability.”
He said the Rosa Mine group is now considered the official watchdog committee of the Friends of the Locust Fork River. The committee has been critical of environmental and historical studies included in the initial permit application as lacking in detail and recency.
Fred Orange, project manager for the Rosa Mine permit application at the surface mining commission, said the preissuance review of all aspects of the application is moving forward.
“There are lots of questions still outstanding, from the consultants and from concerned citizens,” he said. Each section of the application has a person assigned to conduct a review of that section. There are eight sections: administrative, environment, geohydrology, engineering, blasting, reclamation, land use, and bonding.
Only one section – blasting – has been reviewed and signed off as complete. “That’s because they’re not doing any blasting,” Orange said. Orange said the review process could take as little as two months or up to a lot longer than two months, depending on what, if any, complicating factors are discovered during the course of the review.
“There are a lot of safety valves built into this process,” he said, “and that means it could take a lot longer if something requiring further work is found. It can’t be approved until all those questions are answered.” Orange said each person who submitted a comment or question in writing to the commission will get a copy of the review when it is completed. A 30-day period for public comment will follow, he said.