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DEP ordered to assist citizens' inspection of mining near Blair

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Department of Environmental Protection was ordered this week to work with coalfield citizens to reschedule the rest of an inspection of strip mining taking place near historic Blair Mountain in Logan County.Members of the state Surface Mine Board issued the ruling in response to an appeal by activist Joe Stanley over an aborted "citizen inspection" by representatives of the group Friends of Blair Mountain."The right of a citizen to accompany DEP on an inspection is an important element of the surface mining law and regulations," the board said in announcing its decision following a daylong hearing Monday. "The board orders that DEP and Joe Stanley and the Friends of Blair Mountain work cooperatively to schedule another citizen inspection."Under West Virginia law, citizens who report suspected violations of mining law to the DEP have a right to accompany state officials when they inspection mine sites to determine if such violations exist.
Friends of Blair Mountain, the United Mine Workers union and other groups want to preserve areas on the border of Logan and Boone counties that were the site of the largest armed conflict in American labor history. Between Aug. 25 and Sept. 2, 1921, more than 10,000 union coal miners fought armed coal company guards, a battle that ended only after federal troops intervened.Stanley and Friends of Blair Mountain are concerned that work by Alpha Natural Resources associated with the company's Camp Branch Mine may be damaging areas of historical or archaeological interest.In September, citizens accompanied the DEP on an inspection of part of the site, but one of the citizens was injured when he fell and the inspection was not completed. Later, the DEP refused to complete the inspection and Stanley appealed to the Surface Mine Board.Reach Ken Ward Jr. at or 304-348-1702.
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