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MDE approves permit for Casselman mine

Authorization moves project past final development hurdle

Megan Miller
The Cumberland Times-News Fri Oct 01, 2010, 07:59 AM EDT

— GRANTSVILLE — The Maryland Department of the Environment issued a permit this week that essentially cleared the last procedural hurdle preventing development of a coal mine under the Casselman River.

The surface water discharge permit will allow Maryland Energy Resources LLC, a subsidiary of the Indiana, Pa.-based Joseph Peles Coal Company, to discharge an average of 500,000 gallons of mine drainage per day, along with variable volumes of stormwater, into the North Branch of the Casselman from an underground mine.

The proposed mine is comprised of more than 4,600 acres and includes 15 million tons of recoverable coal.

The possibility of development of a coal mine in that area has been discussed openly by public officials since at least 2008. The Casselman Basin, which runs beneath Grantsville, is estimated to contain about 116 million tons of coal, according to MDE.

Maryland Energy Resources applied for the discharge permit in February 2009, but a determination was delayed partly because of concerns expressed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources over the mine’s potential impact on two state endangered species, the hellbender salamander and stonecat fish.

Members of the public echoed those concerns in a May 19 public hearing. They also voiced concerns about acid mine drainage and other issues related to monitoring the mine discharge.

MDE’s written response to public comment stated that the mine will be designed and operated in such a way that water “will not passively flow out of the mine.” The agency stated that management of acid mine drainage and erosion and sediment controls is covered under a separate permit already issued for the project by the Bureau of Mines.

MDE also stated that DNR withdrew its jeopardy opinion regarding the endangered species after reviewing the final conditions of the permit.

Any person who is “adversely affected” by MDE’s decision has until Oct. 30 to request a judicial review in Garrett County Circuit Court, according to the agency.

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