Marfork Complex

From Global Energy Monitor

The Marfork Complex of Raleigh County, West Virginia, is owned by Massey Energy and "includes seven underground room and pillar mines and a preparation plant. The Marfork preparation plant has a capacity of 2,400 tons per hour. Customers are served via the CSX rail system with unit trains of up to 150 railcars."[1][2] In early December 2011, the Marfork Complex's Parker Peerless mine, along with 7 other mines in the United States, was put on notice by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for having a pattern of violations. As a result, the mine and will face more scrutiny in the future from MSHA.[3]

Mine Data

  • Owner: Marfork Coal Company
  • Parent company: Massey Energy
  • Location: Raleigh County, WV
  • GPS coordinates:
  • Production: 3,817 thousands of tons (2007)
  • Type of coal: High Vol Met, Utility, and Industrial
  • Mine type: Underground
  • Equipment:
  • Number of employees:
  • Established/Acquired: 1993
  • Recoverable Reserves: 121,721 thousands of tons

Local Activism

Massey Energy has plans to begin mountaintop removal at Marfork Mountain, 100 feet away from the Brushy Fork coal sludge impoundment. In May 2009 more than seventy-five residents of the Coal River Valley and members of a coalition that includes Mountain Justice and Climate Ground Zero picketed the entrance to Massey Energy's Marfork Mine complex. Protestors stood in front of the gates of the mine facility with signs including "7 billion spilled, 998 killed," and the State Police arrested them. After the arrests, former U.S. Congressman Ken Hechler, a longtime opponent of strip mining, gave a speech. He underscored the responsibility of citizens to safeguard their freedoms and stand up for their rights. The protest came just hours after activists carried out two non-violent direct actions to protest mountaintop removal and coal sludge impoundments.[4]

February 18, 2010: No-coal Activists Stage Sit-in at Marfork Coal Company in West Virginia

Mike Roselle and two other environmental activists of Climate Ground Zero delivered a citizen's arrest warrant to the president of Marfork Complex on February 18, 2010, a subsidiary of Massey Energy, for allegedly violating West Virginia State Code §61-3E-10 for "wanton endangerment involving destructive devices, explosive materials or incendiary devices." The three were arrested after chaining themselves to chairs in the company's lobby. A cash bail was set for $5,000 to two of the activists, Joseph Hamsher and Thomas Smyth, causing the two to go on a hunger strike in protest of what they believed to be too high of a bail fee. As of February 22, 2010 the three remained in jail. A receptionist for the company was said to have had an anxiety attack following the event.[5][6]

July 2011: Residents concerned new mine could destabilize coal slurry dam

On July 5, 2011, Coal River Mountain Watch and the Sludge Safety Project will gather supporters outside the federal Office of Surface Mining office in Charleston. Chief among their concerns is a planned permit renewal and proposed blasting for the Bee Tree Mine, which they fear could destabilize the nearby 7 billion-gallon Brushy Fork coal sludge impoundment. Residents note the dam was built by the same engineers behind the Martin County, Kentucky dam, which failed and released some 300 million gallons of coal slurry, creating a flood as wide as a football field and 6 feet deep.

Regulators ordered stability tests on the 7 billion-gallon Brushy Fork coal sludge impoundment in response to residents' fears of catastrophic failure. Officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement said mining laws require them to assume a citizen complaint has merit, while it is up to the state to determine if the threats of failure and flooding are real. Harold Ward, also of the DEP's mining division, said state inspectors who visit the Brushy Fork impoundment have found nothing to suggest a defect. Still, the DEP is working with engineers and Alpha Natural Resources to devise a testing plan to prove it is safe. OSM cited Alpha subsidiary Marfork Coal Co. on May 26, 2011, "for failure to prevent liquification and provide safeguards against the development of this condition."

The dam above Marsh Fork Elementary School has a capacity of more than 8 billion gallons. Emergency response documents say that if it failed, the resulting flood would hit Pettus in just 12 minutes and the communities of Whitesville, Seng Creek and Sylvester within 36 minutes. It would travel through Orgas and Coopertown in the first 90 minutes to Fosterville, Prenter, Comfort and Bloomingrose. In about three hours, it would hit Racine and Peytona.[7]

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  1. Massey Energy, "Mining Locations", Massey Energy website, accessed October 2009.
  2. Massey Energy, "Massey Energy 2008 10K", SEC Info, February 29, 2008.
  3. "MSHA: 8 mines have potential pattern of violations" Business Week, December 1, 2011.
  4. "Non-violent Civil Disobedience in Coal River Valley, WV: Seventeen Arrested in Three Separate Actions," Mountain Justice website, accessed September 2009
  5. Jeff Biggers, "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Mike Roselle", February 19, 2010.
  6. Kennie Bass, "Massey Employee Returns To Work After Treatment" WCHS, February 22, 2010.
  7. "DEP orders testing on Raleigh slurry dam" Charleston Gazette, July 1, 2011.

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