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West Virginia orders surface mine to stop work

CHARLESTON (AP) — West Virginia environmental officials have ordered a new surface coal mining operation near Kanawha State Forest to halt some mining.

The stop-work order is from the Department of Environmental Protection. Inspectors issued an “imminent harm cessation order” when they found cracks in a barrier intended to contain runoff in a sediment-control ditch.

It’s also meant to prevent dirt and mud from the site from entering a nearby creek.

DEP spokeswoman Kelley Gillenwater said the order only applies to mining activity near that drainage area.

DEP Secretary Randy Huffman told The Charleston Gazette the work stoppage continues “until this gets fixed.”

Keystone Industries was issued a state permit this spring to mine on more than 400 acres. As a condition of the permit, Keystone agreed not to use state forest roads for access, coal hauling or other mining-related activity.

Several environmental groups have opposed the mining operation.

It is the second sediment-control violation issued at the site in a little more than a week. On July 7, state environmental regulators cited the mine for starting to clear-cut vegetation before building another sediment-control ditch.

The DEP ordered the work on both ditches be complete by July 22.

On July 11, the Kanawha Forest Coalition and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition filed a complaint with the state agency over the lack of sediment controls. The groups used aerial photographs of the site as evidence.

The groups asked to join environmental officials during an inspection of the mine. State regulators responded that it would be unnecessary, since the agency already issued violations related to the groups’ concerns, according to agency records.

Huffman said no environmental damage occurred from the violations.

DEP’s actions should give the public confidence that the agency is carefully monitoring a mining operation close to a popular public forest, Huffman said.

“This is Kanawha State Forest, and we’re not going to allow a drop of water to escape that ditch,” Huffman said.

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