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Group Opposes Proposed Coal Mine Near Patoka Wildlife Refuge

The Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1994 to provide habitat for migratory birds and improve water quality in the Patoka River.

Vigo Coal is proposing a new surface mine that will involve the removal of vegetation and soil on 1500 acres of land, less than five miles from the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge.

Tim Maloney is the Senior Policy Director for the Hoosier Environmental Council. His group, along with the Sierra Club and Conservation Law Center, has written letters to the US Army Corps of Engineers expressing their concern with the proposed project.

The Corps must approve one of the numerous permits required for surface mines.

“There needs to be assurances that the mining can occur without harming all the possibly affected resources – water quality, fish and wildlife, and the refuge itself,” Maloney says.

As the area is mined, sediment and heavy metals could be discharged into streams that feed into the Patoka River.

Maloney says the company’s permit application is short on necessary details for conservation.

The refuge provides habitat for migratory birds and more than 80 plant and animal species the state categorizes as threatened, endangered or rare. These species include Indiana bats, bald eagles and the northern copperbelly watersnake.

The coal company is required to provide a plan to detail how it will restore the land and waterways once the mining operations stop.  Environmental groups say they need more information.

“Once it’s destroyed, you can’t just go in and dig a channel and throw some rocks in and say we now have a fully-functioning stream that provides the same type of habitat that it did before it was altered,” Maloney says.

If approved, this would make the eighth active surface mine in southern Pike County.

No Vigo Coal representatives were available for comment.

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