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Scaled-back surface mine planned for vicinity of Kanawha State Forest

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  -- A surface mine planned for development on the slopes facing the access road to Kanawha State Forest's shooting range would be smaller and should have less environmental impact than originally proposed, but would still be visible and audible from a number of forest trails and roads.

Plans for Keystone Development's proposed 413.8-acre surface mine opposite Middlelick Branch from Kanawha State Forest's northeastern boundary were on display Tuesday night during a Department of Environmental Protection informal conference at Riverside High School.

The conference, part of the review process for Keystone Development's permit application, involved no formal presentations or publicly aired comments. Instead, those attending the event viewed displays showing the size and scope of the planned mining activity and its effects on Kanawha State Forest's viewshed, and individually questioned DEP personnel about various aspects of the project. Tape recorders were available for members of the public to privately record their comments, which will later be made a part of the public record for the permit application.

In 2009, Keystone Development initially proposed a 597-acre surface mine, including a mile-long valley fill, for the site, according to Dennis Stottlemyer of the DEP's Environmental Advocate's Office. In addition to removing more than 180 acres from the project, Keystone Development has scrapped plans for the valley fill, opting instead to haul overburden to an adjacent surface mine where it will either be "overstacked" on an existing valley fill or deposited on a pre-regulation mine bench.

Keystone Development currently has 929.65 acres under permit for surface mining in the Rush Creek drainage between Kanawha State Forest and the Kanawha River.

According to the permit application for the 413.8-acre tract now under review, Keystone Development would leave 100-foot undisturbed buffer zones around seasonal streams, and reclaim the land to its approximate original contour. The company now plans to mine no closer than 588 feet from the Kanawha State Forest boundary. Under its 2009 proposal, Keystone proposed mining as close as 100 feet from state forest land.

Access to and from the proposed mine site would be from the Rush Creek area and would not involve travel on Kanawha State Forest roads.

DEP personnel used 689 observer points along Kanawha State Forest trails in the vicinity of the proposed mining area to create maps showing how visible the mine would be to state forest hikers and bikers. According to the maps, the mine would be most visible from the Polecat and Lindy trails, and visible to a lesser degree from the Ballard and Middle Ridge trails.

"Overall, the changes to the permit application are beneficial to the forest, but there will still be an impact," said Kanawha State Forest Foundation board member Doug Wood. "People will be hearing blasting and machinery for years to come."

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.


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