By Kelly Doran, CG News
About 50 years ago, a mine off County Road 49 in Joy Hollow near Amesville, Ohio rendered much of Donnie and Sandra Stevens’ 500 acres of land unusable.
“Right now you can’t even walk it,” said Donnie Stevens, a member of Friends of Coal and Save Our Rural Economy, which are both in favor of the mine.
Now the Stevens have signed a lease with Oxford Mining Co. to reopen the mine, and the company is required to make the land workable after mining is complete.
Save Our Rural Environment, or S.O.R.E., which was founded in the 1970s to oppose a previous strip mine, is working to resist the potential strip mine.
S.O.R.E. is currently involved in what Roxanne Groff, one of the members, calls a “citizen action mode.” This means that its members are gathering interested people who will help.
“You have to first let the public know that there’s a concern and what that concern is,” Groff said. She is S.O.R.E.’s contact person with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
S.O.R.E.’s main concerns are pollution of the watershed and the damage to the roads by the heavy trucks, Groff said.
“Think about living in an idyllic neighborhood, where there’s no noise, no traffic, beautiful landscaping and you wake up in the morning and there’s bulldozers and noise and dust and dirt, the possibility of your water being polluted, your road being ruined,” Groff said.
The Stevens, however, do not have the same concerns.
Heavy logging trucks drove on the roads all winter without significantly damaging them, Donnie Stevens said, adding that the trucks will only be driving during the daylight hours and the placement of the mines is in an area that can barely be seen.
He also said that there is no chance of the creek being polluted because Oxford will only use water from sediment ponds that they will build or were previously built.
Even if the water is contaminated, Oxford is required to treat it for at least five years, he said.
Oxford is required to maintain the land for five years after they are done mining, Donnie Stevens said. It is also required to maintain the sediment pond for five years. If the pond leaks in those five years, Oxford has to repair it and then maintain it for another five years.
In addition, he said that dust will not be a problem because the workers will constantly be watering in order to prevent dust. Even if there was dust the trees would catch it anyway.
“The county’s going to win,” Donnie Stevens said. He believes Athens County will benefit greatly from the strip mine.
The Stevens say that the reason everyone is so concerned about the strip mine on the Stevens’ land is that “they’re jealous.” They don’t need the money from the coal, Donnie said. The community needs it because so many people are on welfare.
Ohio University’s Beyond Coal chapter has an opinion similar to that of S.O.R.E.
“Coal is really done, you know, we should be thinking as communities how to get past reliance on coal,” said Beyond Coal lead organizer Badger Johnson.
The Stevens are unconcerned about Oxford not keeping its promises because it is legally required to do what it agreed to do.
Groff, however, does not agree.
“No mining company can mine and not violate the law and the regulations. It’s impossible to do,” Groff said. “So really, these companies are given a license to break laws. I mean, that’s pretty much what a coal mining permit is.”