In January 2007, the corps issued the latest version of a slightly scaled back version of the Spruce Mine, after completing a lengthy Environmental Impact Statement on the project.
The new permit covered nearly 2,300 acres and would bury more than 7 miles of streams. Eventually, the operation could produce an average of 2.7 million tons of coal annually over 15 years and employ about 250 workers. At the time it was issued, the Spruce Mine was the largest single strip-mining permit ever issued in West Virginia.
Soon after the corps action, environmental groups sought to have U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers block the permit. The Spruce Mine was not among those halted by a March 2007 ruling by Chambers or directly affected by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturning Chambers.
The environmental group complaints about the Spruce Mine have never been heard, and in the meantime, the operation -- with environmentalists' approval -- has been conducted very limited mining. During the first three months of this year, the mine produced just 132,000 tons of coal with 19 employees, according to federal records.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.