New mine will pay city 25 cents a ton

Posted 5/1/18

CARBON HILL  - The Carbon Hill City Council on Thursday approved an agreement with FM Coal that will give the city 25 city a ton from a new highwall coal mine. District 4 Councilman …

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New mine will pay city 25 cents a ton


CARBON HILL  - The Carbon Hill City Council on Thursday approved an agreement with FM Coal that will give the city 25 cents a ton from a new highwall coal mine. 

District 4 Councilman Chandler Gann and District 5 Councilman Jason Chambers were absent from the meeting and did not vote. District 1 Councilman McClain Burrough missed about the first 13 minutes of the meeting but arrived before discussion of the mining agreement started.

The company had sought approval from the council in January but did not return for a visit until Thursday. The CEO and president of FM Coal, Freddie Hunt of Sipsey, did not make it for Thursday's meeting, but the landowners of the mine, Chris Wright of Carbon Hill and Howard Brown of the Townley area, did attend.

Brown said after the meeting officials expect the mining operation to be underway in about a year, generating at least $100,000 for the city over the life of the project. No one has exact figures on how many tons could be generated, he said.

Mayor Mark Chambers said the company was offering the funds "out of the goodness of their hearts," and all the city has to do is accept it or reject it.

Wright suggested a percentage of the funds going to the city's Blue Gym, although he added the council can do with the funds as it wishes.

"I think if you can keep kids in here active, it is going to help this town. We need a lot of help in this town. We're all in this boat together," he said.

He said he was concerned about doors and windows possibly being damaged at the facility, saying that is an image that could be seen by visitors to the city. He suggested cameras might even be placed at the gym, where the images could be seen at City Hall.

Wright noted teams have a need for a location for their games. 

"Sometimes Curry is overrun and they look for places to play," Wright said. "That is in baseball. That is in basketball. That is one way they see us an an image of this town." 

He said the image also can be seen by industrial prospects, who will not bring in companies if they see no one cares about their city.

The mayor said the city has spent more than $20,000 on the gym in the past year. Parents the week before worked on some of the bathrooms."

Brown said the action that night involved the city giving confirmation that it accepted the royalty, without obligating the city in any way.

Hunt said in January that FM Coal involves four different Walker County mining companies, including Cedar Lake Mining, Cane Creek, LLC, Best Coal and MS&R Equipment. A fifth company one on Coal Valley Road is no longer active, he said.

The company has about 250 employees, which he said makes it one of the largest employers in the county. It has six active surface mines, including two operations focused on highwall mining. 

Highwall mining operates using an underground mining head from the outside of the surface area, extending it underground and driving the mining head up to 1,000 feet under the mountain where the coal is located, Hunt said in January. It involves low impact technology which can extract 70 percent of the coal in a seam. 

The area involved is located between Dogtown Road and Carbon Hill High School, which the delegation said was commonly known as Debardelebn Hill. The area has always been extensively mined with both underground and surface methods.

Hunt has projected the project might last a year or a year and a half, with the land later reclaimed.

He said in January, "We would be willing to include a royalty override to the city, simply for being there," noting the company has a clear right to extract minerals by state and federal law, and that it pays severance and other taxes. "In excess of that and beyond that, we would dedicate 25 cents a ton for every clean ton produced out of this coal mine directly to the city of Carbon Hill."

Trucks would come down Dogtown Road. "They would come back this direction through town," Hunt said at the time. They would then get on Highway 78 to go back to Birmingham. If damage or wear is seen on the road, the company would get together with city officials, as they try to help the neighborhoods.

In other action at Thursday's meeting, the council:

• Heard from Street Department Superintendent Alan May that his crew would start painting the swimming pool in a few days. He did not get paint for the splash pad, as the department has to deal first with a water leak there.

• Hired Sarah G. Stovall as an additional lifeguard for the swimming pool. The council considered a total of three lifeguard hires. However, Councilwoman April Kennedy Herron, who once ran the pool, noted the pool already had six lifeguards coming into the meeting and eight would be too many. She only recommended Stovall be hired at this time because she had undergone certification already, which saved about $200 for the city. Officials said there was some concern one or two might withdraw due to other sports, although all have reconfirmed they would work.

• Agreed to pass an ordinance that bans people from illegally dumping items such as mattress and TVs on the side of the road, adding possible fines and jail time of up to $1,000 after multiple offenses and up to six months in jail. The council earlier agreed to delay enforcement until after last Saturday's countywide clean up day, when the county landfill accepted items for free. 

• Heard a reminder that the National Day of Prayer ceremony will be held at City Hall on Thursday, May 3, at noon.