After the coal at the John Henry Mine is mined, the material is put through two crushers and separated — coal is put out on the right, while refuse exits to the left. Photo by Ray Still

Environmental public comments end on proposed Black Diamond mine reopening

Black Diamond may soon be returning to its roots as a mining town. Plans to reopen the John Henry Mine, formerly the Black Diamond Mine, have been in the works for seven years, but recent developments have taken The Pacific Coast Coal Company closer to its goal.

Black Diamond may soon be returning to its roots as a mining town.

Plans to reopen the John Henry Mine, formerly the Black Diamond Mine, have been in the works for seven years, but recent developments have taken The Pacific Coast Coal Company closer to its goal.

PCCC’s owner Dave Morris has operated the mine since the mid-80s until the mine stopped production in 1999.

In 2009, the federal Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement (OSMRE) ordered PCCC to either re-open the mine or finalize its reclamation of the area, which means filling up the mine and grading to blend with the surrounding area.

PCCC decided to submit a revised permit in April 2011 to reopen the John Henry Mine.

“Why bury 500,000 tons of coal that is ready to go?” Morris said in a phone interview.

However, the permit renewal process was put on hold until the OSMRE completed an environmental assessment report, determining how much of an environmental impact the re-opened mine would have on ground and surface water, air quality, traffic and vibrations, and human health.

The environmental assessment was published in September, and the public comment period on the report closed Tuesday, Oct. 24.

There are still several steps to go before PCCC’s permit is renewed — these include finalizing the environmental assessment, responding to any substantive public comments about the assessment, and signing the Finding of No Significant Impact report, which is a summary of the assessment published in September.

“This process could take up to 4 months to complete,” said OSMRE Public Affairs Specialist Chris Holmes. “If, after reviewing the public comments, OSMRE determines that there would be significant impacts to the environment, the bureau would begin to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).”

If the OSMRE decides there’s no impact statement needed, the bureau would then make its decision on the permit renewal, usually within 30 days.

ENVIRONMENTAL, ECONOMIC IMPACTS ‘NEGLIGIBLE’

According to the published environmental assessment and a summary of the report, PCCC plans to mine 462,000 tons of coal over next six years.

But that’s a rather small yield compared to when the mine was in its heyday, Morris said, which was close to 300,000 tons of coal a year.

The mine itself, Morris added, is the smallest mine west of the Mississippi.

With all that in mind, none of the environmental effects from re-opening the mine “are considered to be significant,” OSMRE Manager Marcelo Calle wrote in the Finding of No Significant Impact report.

The OSMRE considered the direct and indirect impacts to everything from traffic and transportation, noise and vibrations, water quality, air quality and human health and safety, finding all impacts to be “negligible and short term.”

The bureau estimates PCCC — through mining and reclamation, electricity and diesel use, and coal transportation and burning — will produce more than 240 thousand metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

This may seem like a large amount, but these emissions levels “would be less than two percent of total county emissions per year,” the assessment report states.

Between fires in King County, plus diesel and non-diesel vehicles and machinery, the county produced an estimated 11.7 million metric tons of CO2 in 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency reported.

The OSMRE also wrote in its report that there would also be “negligible beneficial economic impacts,” since the mine would only be on operation for six years, employing approximately 30 people. During the one year of reclamation, the number of people employed would drop to about 20.

John Henry Mine Environmental Assessment by Ray Still on Scribd

Pacific Coast Coal Company geologist Mike Conaboy shows off a small seam of coal on the surface close to Pit 2, where the company will be mining coal if its permit is renewed. Photo by Ray Still

More in News

Council updated on outside agencies

Plateau Outreach Ministries and the Enumclaw Expo Center made presentations to the City Council last week.

Bonney Lake City Administrator Don Morrison retiring

After more than 40 years working with and for municipal and county governments, City Administrator Don Morrison isready to move onto the next chapter of life.

Some King County elected leaders want to spend $180 million on maintenance upkeep at Safeco Field in Seattle. Photo by HyunJae Park/Flickr
King County leaders want to allocate $180 million to Safeco Field

But once councilmember thinks funding for affordable housing and the arts should come before subsidizing stadium maintenance.

Bonney Lake teen still missing

Lileana Christopherson may be with 39 year old Christopher Fitzpatrick, official say.

Ground broken for Sumner School District’s new early education center

The Sumner School District broke ground last week on the new Valley… Continue reading

Field is set for fall election season

Check out who is running in the 31st Legislative District and the 8th Congressional District.

Plans to open King County coal mine later this year move forward

The Department of the Interior has granted a permit to resume mining at the Black Diamond location.

King County considers buying 65,000 acres for conservation

The proposed plan would protect forests, trails, shorelines, and farms.

What to do with bats | Public Health Insider

Know how to safely deal with bats and keep yourself protected from rabies.

Most Read