The letters were hand-delivered on Monday to the Alabama Surface Commission office in Jasper by representatives from area environmental groups as well as members of the Dovertown community of Cordova, where the mine will be located.
Monday marked the deadline of a 30-day extension to the public comment period the ASMC gave for the mining permit. The agency now has 30 days to rule on the application.
Representatives from environmental groups like the Coalition of Alabama Students for the Environment say they are concerned about the mine’s effects on the Warrior River, particular the greater Birmingham area’s drinking water.
The 506-acre mine, referred to as Reed Mineral No. 5, will be located several miles upstream from the main drinking water intake for the Birmingham Water Works Board’s Western Filtration Plant. Officials with the BWWB have expressed concern to regulatory agencies about the mine. They say the operation could lead to higher levels of iron and manganese in the source water, which could increase treatment costs, stain clothes, sinks and tubs, and cause an “objectionable taste” to the water.
On Monday, about a dozen residents from the Dovertown community stood at the Walker County Courthouse Square holding signs that read “Stop Strip Mining on the Warrior River” and requesting passersby to sign letters of opposition to the mine.
The square is across from the street from the ASMC’s headquarters.
Randy Palmer, a member of the Dovertown group, said that in addition to the concerns of water quality, their group views the mining project as short-sighted in regard to the long-term economic growth of the Cordova area. He said the operation would only create about 20 jobs, which will likely be transfers, but it will destroy valuable riverfront property and hurt chances of the area becoming a bedroom community for Birmingham.
“We’re talking about exchanging all of that for 20 jobs,” he said. “Even if they were 20 brand new jobs, that’s not a good deal.”
On Monday, Randall Johnson, executive director of the ASMC, met with Palmer, representatives with CASE and Adam Johnston, a coordinator with the nonprofit conservation group Alabama Rivers Alliance. The representatives handed in the more than 1,500 letters and expressed their concerns about the mine.
Palmer said he feels that Johnson was receptive to their concerns and was generous with his time to explain the review process.
In a phone interview, Johnson said he could not comment on the ASMC’s decision on the mining permit. However, he said agency officials will assemble the comments and review them before making a decision.
He said the review process includes the work of technical staff like a hydrologist, who will analyze data provided by Reed Mineral and the BWWB to address concerns of water pollutants.