The United Mine Workers made a last-ditch effort Thursday to save the jobs of 400 union miners who would work at the largest mountaintop removal mine in West Virginia history.
UMW President Cecil Roberts urged Chief U.S. District Judge Charles Haden II to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from revoking a proposed permit for the 3,100-acre Arch Coal Inc. Spruce No. 1 Mine.
Two weeks ago, the Corps withdrew its proposed authorization of the Spruce mine under a general, nationwide permit. Then, the agency asked to be dismissed from a federal court lawsuit that challenged the permit.
"The Corps dropping out at the courthouse door is very problematic," Roberts said during an interview with Gazette editors. "The one hope we have now is for Judge Haden to stop the Corps from doing this."
At the same time, a UMW lawyer told Haden that allowing the Corps to withdraw the permit would be "an extremely cruel and unfair way to end the litigation."
Union lawyer Perry D. McDaniel filed a statement from Bobby Webb, who tried to help miners find new jobs through the union's Southern West Virginia Career Center in Montgomery.
In the two-page statement, Webb argued that UMW members laid off from Dal-Tex will "not be able to obtain other coal mining employment in Southern West Virginia or the adjoining regions.
"The miners will also be unable to obtain alternative employment with a salary [and] benefit package commensurate with their current compensation," Webb said. "In fact, it is my opinion that the miners will not be able to obtain jobs paying at least $10 per hour without relocation, most likely to another state."
Arch subsidiary Hobet Mining Inc. wants the Spruce permit to expand its Dal-Tex mountaintop removal complex near Blair, Logan County.
Environmental groups are fighting the Spruce mine as part of their larger lawsuit to curb all mountaintop removal across Southern West Virginia.