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Is Strip Mining Finished in Southwest Virginia?

by Lewis Loflin

In Wise Co. Virginia surface mining or strip mining accounts for perhaps one-third of Southwest Virginia's coal production and a lot of jobs. The Southern Appalachian Mountain Steward (SAMS) is leading the attack against the industry and cares nothing about the deplorable job situation in the region. See http://www.samsva.org/.

The war between eco-socialist environmentalists and the hated coal companies is escalating as the radicalized (worse than ever that is) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Obama Regime has taken a more hostile view of the mining permit process. The EPA has suspended 79 mining permits for further "review." Coal companies using strip-mining need valley fill permits in order to be able to mine and dump their waste. The Army Corp of Engineers is deciding whether to eliminate the permits. Without valley fill permits or imposing costly delays for coal companies, the ultimate goal is to destroy the industry.

But those in favor of strip mining say the county depends on that coal, and the jobs it brings. "If we have a 30% drop in production of coal, which is anticipated if the stripping does stop," says Robby Robbins, the chairman of Wise County's Board of Supervisors, "that's going to affect 30% of the people involved in mining Wise County." Coal mining provides the only private sector jobs that pay a middle class wage in the region. Flipping burgers or phony "Green" jobs simply doesn't compare.

Bill Bledsoe, president of the Virginia Mining Association, Inc., believes Appalachia mining in particular is being targeted. "Many think that is only because the Appalachian mountains, and mountain top removal in particular, is the, I think it's been called, the low hanging fruit," says Bledsoe. "It's the easiest to stop." This may be a win for environmentalists, but coal companies and local government officials are nervous that this may be the beginning of the end for the industry, and Southwest Virginia's economy. Edited extract BHC November 20, 2009

SW Va business park built on old strip mine gets $5.6 Million state grant

A business park in Southwest Virginia is getting a $5.6 million grant from the state for improvements, including improving access roads and installing additional utilities. The Southern Gap Regional Business Park is located on a former mountaintop removal mine site near Grundy. The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority awarded the grant Thursday to the Buchanan County Industrial Development Authority. Susan Copeland with the authority says the business park has 1,100 acres available for development. Associated Press November 20, 2009