|As part of a deal with citizen groups, Patriot Coal |
is going to retire this dragline mining machine
that is currently used at its Hobet complex
along the Boone-Lincoln County line.
Patriot Coal has agreed to phase out mountaintop removal and other forms of strip mining, in a move Patriot officials say is in the best interests of their company, its employees and the communities where it operates. In a deal with citizen groups and environmentalists, Patriot said it would never seek new permits for large-scale surface mining operations, according to details of the settlement that were made public in federal court Thursday afternoon.
St. Louis-based Patriot can continue some existing and smaller mining projects, but must also implement a cap on surface production and eventually stop all strip mining when existing coal leases expire.
The deal does not require Patriot to immediately close any mines or lay off any workers. The company must cut corporate-wide surface production starting in 2014, and gradually reduce it to no more than 3 million tons annually -- less than half of 2011 surface output -- by 2018.
Patriot, the second largest producer of surface-mined coal in West Virginia, becomes the first U.S. coal operator to announce plans to abandon mountaintop removal, a controversial practice linked to serious environmental damage and coalfield public health problems.
The settlement still faces a review by the U.S. Justice Department, and needs approval from Chambers and from the judge overseeing Patriot's bankruptcy case.
|Mountain Top Removal|
The settlement gives Patriot the additional time, bumping back compliance deadlines from May 2013 until August 2014. Hatfield said the move allows the company to defer up to $27 million of compliance costs from 2012 and 2013 to 2014 and beyond, improving Patriot's liquidity as it tries to complete bankruptcy reorganization.
Details of the broader deal on mountaintop removal were spelled out in a 15-page "global settlement" document made public Thursday:
While the agreement eventually reduces Patriot's strip-mining production to zero, it phases that reduction in starting with a cap of 6.5 million tons in 2014. Patriot's surface mining production would be limited to 6 million tons annually in 2015 and 2016, and 5 million tons in 2017 before a cap of 3 million tons becomes effective in 2018.
In mountaintop removal, coal operators use explosives to blast apart mountains to uncover valuable, low-sulfur coal reserves. Leftover rock and dirt is shoved into valleys, burying streams. (Charleston Gazette, 11/16/2012)