Coal mine will avoid Raven Rocks

Times Leader Staff Writer

A SIGNIFICANT portion of the Raven Rocks community will not be subsided during the operations of the new Century longwall mine.
Robert E. Murray, owner of the American Energy Corp., announced that coal will not be extracted by any means underneath the primary rock formations and the unique man-made structures located on the property. Several other ravines as well as traditional wooden structures also exist at Raven Rocks.

The Raven Rocks community is described by scientists from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as, "a renewable energy technology, environmental education and ecological preservation laboratory."
Structures present on the property such as concrete underground homes, windmills, geothermal wells and photovoltaic towers have raised unique questions about longwall mining and subsidence since very early on in the permitting process.

The fate of the other ravines located on the property is not yet clear. A statement from the American Energy Corp. said, "American Energy Corp. will continue to work closely with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Division of Mineral Resources Management and the Raven Rocks community to further refine the mining permit."

ODNR has recommended the further preservation of the Raven Rocks property in a letter sent to the mining company BENNOC, Inc., whose name appears on the permit application.

The letter stated, "It was noted that the applicant had already revised the mining plan to avoid conducting longwall operations under the first and second ravines as well as the more sensitive buildings and structures at Raven Rocks; however, the applicant should further revise the mining plan to avoid the four remaining significant ravines."

The community members have taken a unique stand on the issue since its inception. Their concern has been consistently focused on global issues of fossil fuel consumption rather than on the fate of their own personal property.
Warren Stetzel, one of the community's founders said, "So long as we as individuals and as a society are so profligate in our demands for energy, and demand that that energy be cheap, we are not in a position to insist that our own particular corner be spared the procedures that can produce that energy at low prices."

He continued, "For this reason, we have applied ourselves as persons and as a community at Raven Rocks, first to measures of conservation, and now with a new degree of emphasis, to actual production of energy by totally benign means."

The community is experimenting with new alternative energy technologies and indicated that there will be much more to say about these projects in the months ahead.

Stetzel also spoke to their relationship with the mining company. "In the months since the petition for permit to mine under Raven Rocks was first entered, we have had numerous opportunities to meet with a number of officials of the mine. Throughout, we have been impressed with the intelligent openness and with the wish to be fair that have characterized all these contacts."

Murray noted that he faces a tremendous task in balancing his responsibilities in this matter. He noted that he has his family, employees, regulatory authorities, the public and a number of other parties to balance in this regard.
"I've got to balance all these constituencies and do it right," said Murray. He noted that the people of this area are one of the reasons he has chosen to open the Century mine now.

"I feel I am in a position where I can help the people here," said Murray. He also cited the high cost of natural gas and changing national energy policy. Murray stated that things are happening with policy issues that will allow coal to be marketed once again by price and no longer by its sulfur content.
The mine, which is tentatively slated to open in May, will bring 400 new jobs to the area, according to Murray. He added that the Century mine will also generate $20 million a year in wages and $5.5 million in benefits. It will also produce federal taxes in excess of $7 million a year and $2 million a year in state and local taxes, according to Murray. He also noted a study that estimates for each primary job at the mine many secondary jobs are created.
Stetzel stated that it is the belief of the members of the Raven Rocks community that the years of widespread burning of fossil fuels are numbered. He also stated early on in the permitting process that although fossil fuels were a great and necessary success in human evolution, "nothing fails like a success clung to too long."

Stetzel further noted that damage to their own houses, barns, ponds and wells pales in importance when compared to the long-lasting consequences of fossil fuel addiction.

"When we say this," added Stetzel, "we are including the underground buildings, on one of which, several of us will have spent our lifetimes."

The Century mine will be operated beneath Belmont and Monroe counties. It is located near the site of the old Alison Mine.


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