- Associated Press - Sunday, November 2, 2014

BELMONT, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio producer of coal wants the state to allow the company to mine under a portion of Barkcamp State Park in eastern Ohio.

Ohio Valley Coal Co. has asked the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to expand its underground Powhatan mine beneath 16 acres of the 1,005-acre park in Belmont County, The Columbus Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/10KsTFB) on Sunday.

Ohio Valley Coal is owned by Murray Energy Corp. of St. Clairsville. The company wants to use an additional 314 acres outside the park for room-and-pillar mining, the newspaper reported. That method involves cutting rooms into a coal bed, leaving pillars of coal to help support the mine roof and control the flow of air.

The mine was the first bought by Robert E. Murray in 1988 as he formed his underground coal-mining company. His privately held company owns the mineral rights under Barkcamp, but the state Department of Natural Resources owns the park’s surface and will decide whether to grant a permit to allow coal mining beneath it.

Donna Carver, interim executive director of the Buckeye Forest Council, said the state agency should carefully consider whether to allow mining under a public park and whether such a mine could cause land to sink at the surface.

“Just because issues haven’t been discovered, doesn’t mean they don’t exist,” she said.

Murray Energy official Gary Broadbent told the newspaper that the mining “will have absolutely no effect on the surface.”

The same Murray mine sparked a long 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 upheld the state-issued mining permit in 2007. Critics worried that ground collapsing into voids created by mine tunnels would drain ground water nurturing the trees and harm the forest in other ways. Studies since then have not found any of those problems.

The application for a permit to mine under the park was submitted Aug. 22, but not made public by the state.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources doesn’t grant an application “pending” status and doesn’t notify the public until an application has been reviewed and all questions answered, agency spokesman Matt Eiselstein said.

Approval or denial of an application takes six to 18 months.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

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