Environmental protection, historic preservation & strip mining at odds in W.Va.
Citizens demand right to go along on state inspections
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been ordered by the state’s Surface Mine Board to allow citizens to take part in an inspection of strip mining near an historic site.
The United Mine Workers and the Friends of Blair Mountain, a group dedicated to the preservation of the Blair Mountain Battlefield -- site of the largest armed labor uprising in U.S. history – is concerned that mining activity by Alpha Resources, Inc. is damaging an historically significant area on the border of Logan and Boone counties. That site was the location of a week-long clash in 1921 involving 10,000 union coal miners and coal company guard. Federal troops had to intervene to end the battle.
The Friends appealed to the Board after previous attempt to inspect the site with the DEP ended prematurely and the DEP refused to schedule another inspection.
After a hearing, the board affirmed that the right of citizens who report possible violations of mining law to accompany DEP officials on inspections to determine if the violations exist. The DEP was ordered to “work cooperatively” with the group to schedule another citizen inspection.