NPR Story
5:27 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Local Coal? A Mom And Pop Coal Mine Near Seattle Looks To Get Back To Work

BLACK DIAMOND, Wash. -- Environmentalists have launched a full-on offensive against coal export terminals proposed for Washington and Oregon, but they might want to take a look closer to home.

A small open pit coal mine just outside of Seattle is looking to get back in business.

The John Henry Mine, formerly the Black Diamond Mine, has been in operation on and off since the late 1800s, but it closed down in 1999.

David Morris' grandfather ran the mine before he took it over.

“It’s the smallest little mine west of Appalachia, really," Morris said.

The U.S. produces about a billion tons of coal per year. This mine, if it goes back online, will produce 80,000 tons per year and will be tapped out in 5 years, according to Morris.

You might think of this as "locavore" coal. It’s most likely going to be burned at cement plants in the Northwest and BC, including the Ash Grove Cement Company in Seattle.

It will be delivered by truck, up to 20 trucks a day, to be more specific.

“Resuming coal mining would be a disaster for Black Diamond,” said Austin Bell, who grew up next to the John Henry mine. “This proposal would pollute our air and water and send thousands of coal trucks through our neighborhoods. We need to invest in clean energy instead of digging deeper for dirty coal.”

In 2006 the State Department of Ecology fined the mine $2,000 for exceeding monthly phosphorous discharge levels into nearby waterways. Phosphorous can contribute to harmful algal blooms and other problems.

But now the mine has almost all the necessary permits to begin blasting, and notified residents of its plans in a recent letter. It just needs a final OK from the Federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

The public has until Tuesday to comment on the proposal.

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