Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mountaintop Removal in Brookwood, Alabama--Southland Resources Coal

It may look like West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky mountaintop removal but it's not, it's here, in Alabama, at the foothills of the Appalachians.

The map below shows what's happening in the hills of Tuscaloosa County courtesy of Big Coal. We share the problems of our West Virginian and Kentucky neighbors to our NE and are experiencing the removal of the Appalachians in our own backyard. 

We're willing to bet a lot of Alabamians, who are sympathetic to mountaintop removal in WV and Kentucky, do not realize this is happening so close to home.
Wake up call Alabama.

The physical description of this area from Wiki:
Tuscaloosa County is located in the west central part of the state, in the region commonly known as West Alabama. The county straddles the boundary between the Appalachian Highlands and the Gulf Coastal Plain and consequently boasts a diverse geography.

Map requires Goggle Earth plug-in for best viewing.

View Larger Map

Whose letting this happen in addition to Big Coal?
The Alabama Surface Mining Commission as the main state authority over coal mining and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), who issues NPDES permits to the mines. These two agencies combined are the towering terrors of environmental destruction and function, for the most part, as big business co-enablers in the rampant degradation of Alabama's environment.

They claim they're conscientious and responsible and practicing "good oversight", but we find it hard to believe that the destruction of thousands of acres of diverse habitat in this area resembles responsibility of any kind. Alabamians should be outraged this has been allowed to happen.

Southland Resources has just refiled for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit with ADEM (Public Notice 210 Nov. 2, 2010) and they'll get it, but we think they shouldn't and that this mine has grown far too large.

Tuscaloosa County was responsible for 1,675,813 tons of coal extracted from October-December 2009 out of a total of 4,551,124 tons statewide. And that's just the first quarter of fiscal year 2010 from the State of Alabama's Department of Industrial Relations reports.

The industry is rapidly tearing down the upper Appalachians at breakneck speed, so what's going to happen when the foothills are also destroyed? What will be the eventual environmental consequences of the destruction of the Appalachian range?

It's disingenuous to claim they're won't be any substantial effects and that the areas can be reclaimed and restored by Big Coal--they're not in the business of restoration.

Something is very wrong in Tuscaloosa County and we think that all of Alabama should see what King Coal has done to our Appalachian foothills.

Some additional information on coal in Alabama: (Columbian coal is Drummond coal.)
In 1996, Alabama exported 13 million tons of coal. By 2000, the amount had declined to 3 million tons, while 5.5 million tons of coal were imported from Columbia.
The Columbian coal is shipped to the Alabama Power Company (AP) and the Alabama Electrical Cooperative, via the Alabama State Docks. Before Columbian coal was imported, AP's plants had been fueled by coal form the Drummond Company's coal mines.
About two-thirds of Alabama's coal is high-grade metallurgical coal and is sold (mostly exported) for steel making. The remaining one-third is mostly extracted from surface mines and sold to coal-fired power plants. The metallurgical coal has a very low sulfur content, a high heat value, and is known as Blue Creek coal.

*Brookwood, Alabama coal mining has been in the news before when 13 miners were killed in an explosion at Jim Walter's mine # 5 in September of 2001;
On a September afternoon in 2001, 32 miners repaired drilling machines and hoisted tunnel supports into place at the Jim Walter Resources No. 5 Mine. The mine is North America’s deepest, tracking the 6-foot-high Blue Creek seam almost a half-mile beneath the rolling hills just east of Tuscaloosa.
At about 5:20 p.m., a chunk of mine roof fell onto a battery charger deep underground. The impact set off a spark, igniting a pocket of methane gas. Four miners were injured, and co-workers rushed to their aid.
Then, at 6:15 p.m., a second, far larger explosion tore through the mine. Thirteen miners died, making it the nation’s worst coal-mining disaster in 17 years.
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  1. OMG!!!
    This is totally obnoxious!

  2. I live in Tuscaloosa and I knew we had a lot of coal mining here, but I had no idea how big the Searles mines really were...wow that's one hell of picture to see it from the sky..
    This is more than WRONG!!

  3. What is in those areas of bright yellow and orange?????

  4. That's acid mine drainage sometimes referred to as "yellow boy."
    Lovely isn't it?
    I agree this is beyond outrageous!!

  5. Where is the coal going? My understanding is that some of it goes into local coking operations but much of it goes overseas. I've heard that APCO burns primarily low-sulfur coal from Wyoming (and other western states). Local coal is not as suitable. APCO may be able to use more local coal as they bring online new scrubbers at Plants Gorgas and Miller.

    Re the Vincent quarry - it makes little sense to open a quarry in this terrible economy but my guess they want to get it permitted and ready for the future.

  6. Correct.

    You can read more about that here.

    Note the following language:
    According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), SMCRA effectively protects endangered species through provisions designed to minimize direct impacts on wildlife-- but only when properly enforced.
    The indirect impacts, or "incidental take," such as increased human access to endangered species created by mining roads, long-term changes in land use, and invasions by new species, are impossible to quantify."

    If someone can name any coal mine in Alabama that is properly enforced with respect to the water quality and environmental degradation, please let us know.

    The recent mines proposed for Tuscaloosa that are in very close proximity to the drinking supplies of Jefferson County have been the subject of fierce debate, but ADEM permitted the Sheperd Bend mine anyway without ever looking at their pollution control proposal.


  7. Well now it makes sense why the big push by the Governor-in-thief Riley and why gave away 4 million in this terrible ecomony to Thyssen Krupp to come to Alabama. He had a big carrot didn't he? Looks like he plans to give TK all of the foothills too huh?
    I'll go along with the proposed number of jobs by TK at 2,700 is good (if it happens), but at what long-term associated costs and how long before all those jobs are filled?
    My list of reasons for dislliking this criminal grows longer everyday.

  8. Riley filled a hole in the state industries that were falling down I think. But this article from the Tuscaloosa News in summer of 2009 has the coal industry in Alabama all whining and hand wringing over the future of coal mining in Alabama:


    The economy of the US and the global economy have not improved, so what's up? Are they still stockpiling and laying off as this article says? It's hard to get at the truth when you have so many liars feeding the we're-too-lazy-to-fact-check media!

  9. The way I see it is that we have almost 5 million people in the state. When looking at the job counts for coal mining and steel worker bees, not the top cats, this does not seem to be a fair trade-off in percentages.
    Sure, some folks are making a living and taking care of their families, but the real money is at the top, not just for the ccompanies, but for the state. As far behind as the state lags in many areas, from bad decision on top of bad decision, I am not in agreement with this continued pilfering of Alabama's natural resources to continue to overfeed a select crowd and not take care of the people of Alabama. And yes that includes their right to live in a clean environment.

  10. How was all of this land acquired? Was it the result of a deal between the forest industry or the state and the mining company? Does the mine actually own the land or just the right to mine it? Or is is a case of the mine leasing the land from a private corporation?

  11. Someone to keep your eyes on: CanAm Coal.

    Powhatan Mine Surface Mining

    RAC Mining LLC operates a surface mine (mine map) at the Powhatan site and started operations on December 2, 2009. The mine operations employ conventional open-pit mining techniques using truck and shovel methods (as shown in our Powhatan mine images). Overburden is drilled and blasted with explosives and loaded onto large trucks by shovels and loaders and hauled to waste rock dumps outside of the pit. Once the overburden is removed, the coal is loaded onto trucks for transport to the coal processing area.

    Key characteristics of the Powhatan Mine are as follows:

    * Mineable land portfolio includes 370 acres of permitted and 80 acres of non-permitted lands.
    * Permitted for both surface and highwall/auger mining.
    * Two high quality coal seams; the Blue Creek seam (metallurgical coal) and the Mary Lee seam (thermal or steam coal).
    * Approximately 80% of current production is metallurgical coal.
    * Coal is sold as mined and does not require any further washing/processing.
    * The mine's location, at a river load-out and in proximity of its customers, reduces the handling and hauling costs.
    * Coal is sold into the local markets to both industrial users (metallurgical coal) and power plant customers (thermal coal) and some of the met coal is sold into the seaborne markets.
    * 4,000 tons per month of metallurgical coal has been pre-sold through 1 year sales contracts (calendar year based) at prices ranging between $109 and $115 per ton.

    RAC Mining LLC is evaluating both methods and highwalls will be available for highwall or auger mining in the latter part of 2010. The Company estimates that production of between 6,000 to 12,000 tons per month can be achieved depending on the method of mining used.

    Davis Mine
    RAC Mining LLC has obtained mineral leases on approximately 640 acres of land in the Franklin, Marion and Winston counties in Alabama. This site, referred to as the Davis Mine, is currently in the process of being permitted. As part of this process, approximately 18 drill holes were completed with the aim to determine a USGS (United States Geology Survey) compliant resource estimate. Once permitted, RAC Mining LLC plans to operate the mine at an average of 15,000 tons per month and sell the thermal coal in the local power markets.

    Strategic Growth Opportunities
    CanAm continues to evaluate other mining opportunities in the Appalachia region of the Unites States of America and in particular in the state of Alabama. With the strong coal market and the increasing pricing environment, management intends to expand on its current portfolio of coal assets through strategic acquisitions and/or alliances with local coal producers.

    Seems that coal in Alabama has plans doesn't it?

  12. Good Catch BarT!

    Thanks for that one!


  13. And another Mistal

    Looks like a Louisiana outfit. Tar Sands in NW Alabama?? That's a troublesome issue in Canada right now and emits a great deal more greenhouse gases than conventional crude collection.
    Oil & Gas in Black Warrior, coal mining Colbert, Franklin, Winston Counties???
    We're in a bad economy what's with the big push on all of this with outfits most people aren't even aware of?
    I smell a great big rat and I bet they all scurry about in a town called Montgomery.

  14. i feel for you brookwood but just travel north to jefferson county to the community of adger al drummond has used its usual tactics to convince this poor older community of people on fixed incomes to accepet 1000 dollars of an arbitration agreement and then commenced to blast and tear up the foundations of their homes ruin their well water while tearing up their roads with speeding coal trucks. the poison that floats over the community from the mines being ignored by asmc adem epa and the other crooks who have their hands deep inside drummonds pockets yes im talking about you jefferson county commission especially jimmie stephens. yes just come and look at how our neighboorhood is destroyed what have you done for the community nothing just a lot of promises oh by the way how well is it that you just layed off 130 miners.


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