Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mingo County Resident Enforcing the Law

Post Written by KOTM On The Road Again Speaker and Mingo County Resident Donna Branham

Lenore, WV Resident Donna Branham
The widespread destruction of land and water resources caused by strip mining and the failure of the states to effectively regulate the industry themselves resulted in the passage of Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA).  I recently had the opportunity to attend a training in Pittsburgh on how to use SMCRA to protect my home from the threats of coal mining activity.

The purpose of SMCRA was to make mine operators conduct their operations in a way that would avoid environmental and public health injury, and to restore the land after mining to its pre-mining condition.  SMCRA gives citizens extensive rights to participate in the process of controlling strip mining abuse. Congress believed that citizen involvement would be crucial to SMCRA's success. All mining operations have a disruptive effect on the environment, but the sheer volume of material involved in strip mining makes the impact on the environment extremely serious. Private citizens are most likely the first to recognize that their property or community is threatened by a mining operation: Congress intended that you should be able to stop any damage before it starts. Strip Mining, including Mountaintop Removal, can severely erode the soil or reduce its fertility; pollute waters and/or drain underground water reserves, scar or altar the landscape, damage roads, homes and other structures, and destroy wildlife. The dust and particles from mining roads, stockpiles, and lands disturbed by mining are a significant source of air pollution. Citizens whom are involved with a surface mining problem or coal mining related problem should obtain the most recent copy of the federal and state laws and rules to take action to protect their homes. 

The federal rules can be browsed online at the Government Printing Office website: The federal rules can also be purchased from the Government Printing Office. The West Virginia Surface mining Reclamation Rules may be purchased fom the Department of Environmental Protection or may be viewed on line at

As I study and collaborate with others that attended the Workshop, we will post some step by step instruction and explanation of how citizens can take action at three crucial stages of mining operation:

1. Reviewing the operator's application for a permit to begin their mining activities

2. Monitoring an ongoing mine operation

3. Participating in the proceedings after mining which releases an operator from the bond posted at the beginning of the mining operation.

Citizens' Coal Council SMCRA Training Slideshow: