CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The director of West Virginia’s Division of Natural Resources said officials in his agency were satisfied a proposed mine site near the border of Kanawha State Forest would not cause any long lasting damage or impact on the forest.
Frank Jezioro offered testimony Wednesday before the state’s Surface Mine Board on the KD 2 Mining permit.
Opponents of the activity quizzed Jezioro about how the agency reached the conclusion to allow the mining permit. Jezioro said most of the concerns by the DNR involved sights, sounds, and disruption of use in the forest.
“We believed through concessions or changes, the impacts would be minimized or mitigated to where they would be a temporary inconvenience to the park users,” said Jezioro. “Based on that, we agreed.”
During cross-examination, Jezioro acknowledged there could be some impact on the forest.
“If you close some of the hiking trails temporarily, this would be a disruption, so yeah,” he said. “The sounds in the forest is serene. The view shed is important, the disruption of hiking and biking were all important to us.”
Members of the Kanawha State Forest Coalition and other individuals are opposed to the permit. They feared the impact of mining will be far more drastic than regulators believe. Jezioro acknowledged his agency received at least 180 public comments on the permit, all of which were opposed to the mining activity.
Charleston lawyer William DePaulo who represented Keepers of the Forest raised several other questions during Tuesday’s meetings. DePaulo maintained the state Department of Environmental Protection had not done a proper study of the Northern Long Eared Bat population in the forest. The bats are proposed for federal protection, but so far have not been extended the status. Jezioro testified he had no knowledge of any work by his agency on the bat study.
DePaulo also asked Jezioro if he was assured after mining was complete, the mining operator would replace the mountain which would be removed. The question raised objections from the legal team from Keystone Development. DePaulo also interjected when the mining firms attorneys sought comment from Jezioro on the requirements of replacing the site to approximate original contour.
“What I envision is, they said they would reforest that section with hardwood timber. The mountain obviously would not be brought back,” Jezioro stated. “My perception from past experience, reading, or whatever is most if not all surface mining permits require the contour be restored as close to natural as it was prior to the mining.”
Opponents have raised the matter of the DNR’s windfall from the mining activity. The company has agreed to dredge two fishing ponds in the forest and to pay the DNR ten-cents a ton over the life of the mining permit. The total revenue from the work could be $700,000 earmarked for work and improvements at Kanawha State Forest. When asked by the Surface Mine Board if they would have rejected the permit without the royalty, Jezioro replied, “No.”
The board continued to take testimony and is expected to make a decision on the permit at a later date.