Former miners do not want the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to release the final portion of a $4 million bond on a large section of the North Field at the Squaw Creek Mine.
It is the latest development in a five-year campaign by the miners and the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Local 1189 to show that materials dumped at Squaw Creek between 1964 and 1979 were toxic and caused long-term health problems.
The former strip mine was owned by Alcoa and operated by Peabody Coal.
Several types of waste material from Alcoa Warrick Operations were dumped at the mine during its operation, waste that was subsequently covered up by miners.
The waste material included thousands of gallons of a chromium waste product and coal tar pitch, along with thousands of tons of spent potlining.
The miners say they are opposing the release of Alcoa’s bond on the property because they fear the waste material could still cause contamination problems.
“I personally covered up waste in areas Alcoa is now seeking bond release money on,” said former miner Bil Musgave. “The Indiana Department of Environmental Management hasn’t yet conducted an investigation on this area of the mine. Numerous miners have expressed to IDEM and DNR that their current investigation needs to include a larger area and water testing be done to greater depths.”
The UMWA has requested a public hearing on the bond release, which will be held at the Boonville-Warrick County Public Library beginning at 2 p.m. on Jan 3.
The hearing will be conducted by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Division of Reclamation.
“We’ve gotten a lot of input,” said IDNR Division of Reclamation permit coordinator David Phillips. “We’ll have to wait and see what new information we are given. The burden of proof now is on anyone who wishes to testify to provide that new information.”
The IDNR has been made aware in the past of the waste disposed in the North Field of the Squaw Creek Mine. Phillips said that the IDNR will continue to watch the area, whether the bond is released or not.
There is also an Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) study being conducted on the site.
“The IDEM study will continue, and they’ve been doing a pretty comprehensive investigation of the site,” said Phillips.
The IDNR releases mining bonds in three phases. The first phase is released once the mining is complete and the area is graded and returned to its original contour.
The second phase is released once the land is revegitated. And the final phase, which is 15 percent of the total bond, is released a minimum of five years after mining has ceased and plant life can be shown to be healthy and sustained.
“There are normal bond release standards that we look at,” said Phillips. “The erosion controls and that sort of thing. And from what I understand from our inspector, it is in pretty good shape that way.”
According to Phillips, there is still a 200-acre slurry pond that will still have a bond attached to it.
That portion of the former mine is not involved with the current bond release.
The IDNR Division of Reclamation must, by law, make a decision on the bond release within 30 days of the public hearing.
“The hearing is open to anyone,” said Phillips. “They (the UMWA) did request a public hearing. They did not request a sit-down, across the table, to talk. This is an official public hearing. So they will be asked to sit down at a microphone and present their specific facts that we need to look at. And then our goal will be to look at what they say.”
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