Burco Resources and Wind River hold six surface mining permits covering nearly 2,500 acres in Boone County, according to state Division of Environmental Protection records. The companies, based in Big Stone Gap, Va., produced about 1.1 million tons of coal in 1997 at mountaintop removal operations near Bim, along Pond Fork southeast of Madison.
In December 1996, the Tolers and 80 of their neighbors filed a complaint that alleged the mine had damaged their homes, harmed their health, and was a nuisance. About 30 of the residents settled their claims.
Boone Circuit Judge E. Lee Schlaegel held a seven-week trial in February and March on the claims of the other 51 plaintiffs. The verdict was returned on March 26.
Forty-one plaintiffs were awarded a total of $517,000, or an average of about $12,600 each, for blasting damage to their property.
Coal company lawyer D.C. Offutt said Burco and Wind River had not made a decision on whether to appeal the verdict.
"We're obviously very disappointed with the verdict," Offutt said. "We think it primarily represented public perceptions about mountaintop removal mining, not the reality."
Offutt, who represents Pen Coal in the Lincoln County case, criticized Sutter and the other plaintiffs lawyers who filed the cases.
"They're trying to feed on this public sentiment against mountaintop mining," Offutt said.