Ohio’s largest coal producer is seeking state approval to mine beneath a 16-acre sliver of Barkcamp State Park in eastern Ohio, The Dispatch has learned.
Ohio Valley Coal Co., owned by Murray Energy Corp. has applied to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for a permit to expand its underground Powhatan No. 6 mine to beneath part of the 1,005-acre Barkcamp State Park in Belmont County, OH.
The mine was the first bought by Robert E. Murray in 1988 as he formed what became the nation’s largest underground coal-mining company. His privately held company owns the mineral rights that underlay Barkcamp.
The Natural Resources Department owns the park’s surface and will decide whether to grant a permit to allow coal mining beneath land at the state park’s southeastern edge, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The proposal, which includes 314 additional acres next to the park, calls for room-and-pillar mining, which is considered more stable than longwall mining, said natural-resources spokesman Matt Eiselstein.
Murray Energy official Gary Broadbent said that the mining “will have absolutely no effect on the surface.”
A Murray subsidiary owns additional mineral rights beneath the park but has not applied for permits to mine those reserves, Broadbent said.
The same Murray mine generated controversy and a 9-year legal fight over room-and-pillar mining beneath Dysart Woods, a 50-acre tract of old-growth forest owned by Ohio University about 3 miles south of Barkcamp State Park.
Court rulings finally upheld the state-issued mining permit in 2007. Critics worried that subsidence — the ground collapsing into the voids created by mine tunnels — would drain ground water nurturing the trees and cause other harm to the forest. Studies since have found no such problems.
The centerpiece of Barkcamp State Park is 117-acre Belmont Lake and its lakeside campground framed by hills.
The application for a permit to mine under the park was submitted on Aug. 22, but was not made public by the natural-resources department.
The agency does not grant an application “pending” status and notify the public until it has been reviewed and all questions answered, Eiselstein said. Approval or denial of an application takes six to 18 months.