"There may be legitimate good faith differences between the parties, including the employer and the union, as to the mining techniques which could be used to develop the reserve economically and consistent with the relevant environmental laws," the UMW's motion said.
UMW chief lawyer Grant Crandall declined comment, as did Joe Lovett, lawyer for the environmentalists who challenged the Arch Coal permit.
Deck Slone, a media spokesman for St. Louis-based Arch Coal, said the company thinks its proposal is the only way to make money mining the Dal-Tex site.
"We have investigated all other approaches for mining the reserves and we are convinced that mountaintop mining methods are the only economically viable way to mine the reserves at Spruce Fork," Slone said.
In his preliminary injunction order, Haden said that Dal-Tex general manager Mark White, during testimony in court, "averred that mining using mountaintop removal methods was the only economically feasible option for the site because of the depth and placement of the coal seams.
"Nevertheless, he also acknowledged that Spruce Fork could be mined with shovel and truck operations" instead of a dragline, "but at a much greater cost," Haden wrote in his 47-page ruling.
In asking to intervene in the case, the UMW argued that the union and its members cannot be adequately represented by the existing parties - including the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Arch Coal subsidiaries, and various government agencies.
"It is unlikely that the interests of Hobet and its employees represented by the UMW will coincide on the broad issues remaining, and it is just as likely that the UMWA's interests with regard to the issues remaining as to the [Arch Coal] permit may be more flexible and pragmatic than the position of the environmentalists plaintiffs," the UMW said.
"The state position of the UMWA has been to protect both jobs and communities so that when coal mining is over, what remains has been disturbed as little as possible and the community remains intact."