On December 23, 2016, two days before Christmas, The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit for LCT Energy LLC’s Rustic Ridge deep mine in the Indian Creek watershed. This deep mine, located in Saltlick Township, Fayette County, and Donegal Township, Westmoreland County, spans nearly 3,000 underground acres with a 67 acre surface facility located off of County Line Road in Donegal. Areas affected include the villages of Donegal, Jones Mills, Champion, Melcroft and Indian Head. Waterways affected include Champion Creek, Indian Creek and the Youghiogheny River.
The proposed mine overlaps part of the area included in the proposed Rand Am deep mine. This permit was denied by DEP in 1994 because DEP believed the mine had the potential to create toxic discharges that would impact water quality along the length of Indian Creek and into the Youghiogheny River. This denial was upheld by the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board in 1996.
“DEP’s issuance of a permit application in an area where mining was not allowed to proceed in 1996 is extremely irresponsible. DEP has disregarded the volumes of expert opinion submitted by our organization regarding the threats posed by this mine,” said Beverly Braverman, Executive Director of the Mountain Watershed Association. “For example, our experts have expressed concern that LCT’s proposed 500ft barrier is inadequate to prevent pollutional mine drainage.”
The Mountain Watershed Association has raised concerns regarding the creation of dangerous and polluting mine drainage discharges, the potential for a mine pool blowout, truck traffic, and noise, among others.
“Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent cleaning up abandoned mine drainage and restoring dangerous abandoned mine sites in the Indian Creek and greater Youghiogheny River watersheds,” stated Beverly Braverman. “Much of that damage was from deep mines very similar to the Rustic Ridge proposal. This mine jeopardizes the enormous investment of tax dollars in restoring clean water to our rivers and streams.”
“We are committed to protecting our streams and communities from this threat, and we are currently evaluating our options for doing so,” stated local resident Jerry Gearhart.
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