Twilight MTR Surface Mine
Twilight MTR Surface Mine is a surface operation utilizing mountaintop removal practices in Boone County, WV, owned by Massey Energy (now Alpha Natural Resources). It is part of the Progress Energy Complex. Production from the Twilight MTR surface mine is transported via underground conveyor to the Elk Run Resource Group for processing and rail shipment.
In June 2009, members of Rainforest Action Network entered onto Massey Energy’s mountaintop removal 150-foot dragline machine to drop a banner that read, ‘Stop mountaintop removal mining.’ The climbers planned to stay on the enormous dragline, a massive piece of equipment that removes house-sized chunks of blasted rock and earth to expose coal, until police arrest them. This was the first time a dragline had been scaled on a mountaintop removal site. The protest against mountaintop removal came just days after the Obama Administration announced a plan to reform, but not abolish, the aggressive strip mining practice.
In July 2010, it was announced that Massey Energy had filed a politically motivated civil suit, also known as a Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation (SLAPP) suit, against fourteen activists arrested in relation to the protest. Massey is seeking $350,000 in damages for loss of coal production on that day. All fourteen activists had their criminal charges resolved in a W. Va. court in September 2009. RAN said the suit seems to be part of a larger strategy on the part of the mining company to intimidate and silence critics of the company’s safety record and controversial mining practices, particularly mountaintop removal coal mining.
Since the spring of 2008, Massey has filed at least four SLAPP suits against activists in West Virginia working to end mountaintop removal, none of which have yet been resolved. Commonly used to exhaust critics by burdening them with the cost of a massive legal defense, SLAPP suits have been banned by at least 26 states and one territory has protections against SLAPP suits. West Virginia does not have a ban, but its courts have adopted some protections against them.
RAN pointed out that Massey continues to be one of the leading proponents of controversial mountaintop removal mining practices. Above ground, over 500 mountains, 2,000 miles of rivers and streams, and over a million acres of forest have been decimated by mountaintop mining operations. Appalachian communities near Massey mountaintop removal operations are harmed through coal dust, regular blasting, polluted water, and coal waste.
On July 16, 2012, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, and Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against Alpha Natural Resources Inc. over selenium pollution in Logan, McDowell, Boone, and Kanawha counties in West Virginia, saying the company is violating the federal Clean Water Act and state-issued discharge permits. The claim asks for a judge to order the operations to comply, and fine Alpha as much as $37,500 per day of violation, some of which date to 2007. They also seek monitoring and sampling to determine the extent of the environmental damage, and a cleanup and restoration order.
The affected mines are: Alex Energy's Whitman No. 2 Surface Mine; Aracoma Coal Co.'s Camp Branch Mine; Bandmill Coal Corp.'s Tower Mountain Mine; Highland Mining Co.'s Freeze Fork Surface Mine; Independence Coal's Twilight Surface Mine; Jack's Branch Lady Dunn Preparation Plant, Hughes Creek Surface mine, and Stockton Mine; and Kanawha Energy's Fourmile Fork Mine.
- MSHA ID: 4608645
- Owner: Progress Coal
- Parent company: Alpha Natural Resources
- Location: Twilight, Boone County, West Virginia
- GPS coordinates: 37.92, -81.65
- Production: 5,164,718 short tons (2007)
- Type of coal: Utility and Industrial, Bituminous
- Mine type: Surface
- Equipment: Dragline
- Mine Status: Active
- Number of employees: 328
- Established/Acquired: 1998
- Recoverable Reserves: 22,446 thousands of tons
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- Massey Energy, "Massey Energy 2008 10K", SEC Info, February 29, 2008.
- Massey Energy, "Mining Locations", Massey Energy website, accessed October 2009.
- "Breaking: Climbers Up on 20-Story Piece of Mining Equipment Protesting Mountaintop Removal" RAN, June 18, 2009.
- "Massey Energy Files Civil Lawsuit against Environmental Activists" RAN, July 29, 2010.
- "West Virginia Selenium Pollution: Lawsuit Filed Against Alpha Natural Resources," AP, July 16, 2012.
- "Major U.S. Coal Mines," Energy Information Administration