The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

May 3, 2013

Surface mine at Que dam abandoned | Water quality an issue

David Hurst

JOHNSTOWN — Plans for a Jenner Township surface mine are apparently dead.

The Department of Environmental Protection has denied Somerset-based Wilson Creek Energy’s permit application to mine 50 acres of Cambria Somerset Authority-owned coal on the basis the mining company’s planned cleanup work would not adequately improve the water quality in that area – remediation DEP was seeking.

The decision prompted Wilson Creek to terminate its two-year-old lease deal with CSA, saying it does not plan to purse the Studer Mine project further.

“The coal is unable to be mined,” Douglas Berkley, a Wilson Creek vice president, wrote in a letter to the board, indicating a weak worldwide market for coal was also a factor in its decision against pursuing the project further. “We regret to inform you of our decision.”

In a separate letter to project stakeholders, DEP‚Äądistrict mining permit chief Tim Kania said Wilson Creek had the opportunity to appeal the state’s decision on its permit application.

The DEP’s denial letter cited several deficiencies.

Among them:

-- Concerns about a continued, elevated presence of metals in mine drainage.

-- An increased baseline pollution load – or stress load – from an already existing discharge.

-- Concerns the treatment plan redirecting discharges from one area to a “good quality” water tributary.

The surface mining project, in part, was proposed to clean up existing acid-mine drainage that was leaking into Quemahoning Reservoir’s tributaries.

CSA owned the mineral rights to the coal, but the proposed mine was adjacent to its reservoir property near Green Bridge Road.

Any mining would have delivered $4 per ton of coal or 6.5 percent of the coal’s selling rights to the CSA.

Instead, the rights are now back in the authority’s hands to seek other offers.

“It’s DEP’s decision,” CSA Manager Earl Waddell said. “it is what it is.”


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