Last updated: July 18. 2013 11:09PM - 214 Views
Bailey Richards
Staff Reporter

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Several environmental protection groups have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over granting what they believe to be an illegal mining permit.

According to a statement from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Sierra Club, a permit granted to Leeco Mining is unlawful due to the destruction of streams and possible adverse health effects.

The mine is located on the border of Perry and Knott counties near Lotts Creek. According to the lawsuit, the new permit at the existing Stacy Branch mine would create a valley fill which would remove over three miles of streams from this area.

KFTC and the Sierra Club believe that the construction of this mine and the mining process could contribute to health problems of those living close to it. It is because of this, they say, that they are fighting the permit.

The lawsuit cites several studies claiming that proximity to surface mining or mountaintop removal mining can be linked to cancers, heart disease, and birth defects. According to Dr. John Patterson of Irvine, Ky., the human cost of life should be considered when issuing mining permits.

“As a family physician and public health educator who practiced in rural Kentucky for over 30 years, I am concerned about recent research showing that cancer, cardiovascular disease, birth defects and low birth weight babies occur at higher rates in people living near mountaintop removal coal mining sites,” said Patterson. “These communities also experience a lower overall quality of life and a lower life expectancy.”

While there are several safe guards in place that would prevent the issuance of mining permits that pose a significant danger, such as the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, the lawsuit alleges that the Corps of Engineers failed to heed those safeguards in the issuance of this permit. The statement says, “The groups filing the action contend that the Army Corps of Engineers must, by law, take these factors into account when issuing permits for mountaintop removal mining, something it failed to do in the case of the Stacy Branch mine.”

A representative for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ regional office declined to comment on the lawsuit this week, citing its status as ongoing litigation.

The lawsuit seeks to have the permit for the site vacated, keeping the Corps of Engineers from granting any more permits that allow valley fills unless they comply with clean air and water laws, and reasonable attorney fees paid to the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit was drafted by the Appalachian Citizens Law Center in Whitesburg.

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