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International Coal Group, Inc. Moves Forward With Proposed Tygart #1 Mine Project

Posted: Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

Paul A. Hornor, Jr., VP of Hornor Brothers Engineers (left), ICG Senior VP of Mining Services Gene Kitts and ICG Tygart Valley, LLC Project Manager Jeff Kelley (right) view the original 1900’s Cecil Mine maps from the Hornor Brothers archives. The original Sterling Coal and Coke Company linen map from the early 1900’s displays the former Cecil Mine and remaining coal seams.

Coal accounts for one-third of the total energy used and over one-half of the electricity generated in the United States. Coal mined from Appalachian Basin fields in West Virginia is a major resource for the nation.

The Hillman property, located in northern Appalachia, includes approximately 186 million tons of deep coal reserves in the Lower Kittanning seam located predominantly in Taylor County near Grafton.

International Coal Group, Inc. owns the Hillman coal reserve and the non-reserve coal deposits in the Kittanning, Freeport, Clarion and Mercer seams on the Hillman property, and is currently awaiting permits to move forward with their proposed Tygart #1 mine project.

“We continue to work with the state and federal agencies to keep the permit process moving forward,” stated ICG Tygart Valley, LLC Project Manager Jeff Kelley on Wednesday. “And we want to understand the local residents’ concerns so we have held open house meetings, and are going to continue to hold these meetings to answer any questions from the public regarding the Tygart #1 mine project.”

Kelley, along with ICG Senior Vice President of Mining Services Gene Kitts, was in Clarksburg recently to meet with Paul A. Hornor, Jr., Vice President of Hornor Brothers Engineers. The civil, environmental and consulting engineering firm – the oldest family owned and operated engineering firm in West Virginia since 1902 - presented archival maps of the proposed mine area in Taylor County.

ICG learned of the existence of an abandoned underground mine within the proposed Tygart #1 mine coal reserve during a June 2005 open house held at Knottsville. Located at the former town of Cecil, which is now under the Tygart Lake, the abandoned mine would present a safety and environmental hazard unless its boundaries could be determined. A search for a mine map or any information about the mine was launched.

“We (ICG) contacted the West Virginia Geological Survey and Bureau of Mines in Pennsylvania,” Kelley continued, “as well as West Virginia Miners Health Safety and Training, and researched archives at the Taylor County Library and Historical Society.” They even had genealogical searches conducted in an attempt to unearth relatives of mine workers from the former Cecil Mine from 1908 through 1923 who might have old maps or records stored in their attics – but to no avail.

The former Cecil Mine had become an issue with the Corps of Engineers in regards to mining in proximity to Tygart Lake. Also, the state agency responsible for permitting coal mines, the Department of Environmental Protection, required ICG to describe how the proposed mine would avoid any contact with the Cecil Mine.

After searching for the aged maps since June of 2005, Vaughn Miler, land manager in the ICG Morgantown office, suggested to Jeff Kelley that Hornor Brothers Engineering might have some knowledge of the Cecil Mine as the firm has been practicing engineering in this area since 1902. 

“Searching for maps of abandoned mines is a fairly common undertaking for persons engaged in acquiring mineral properties so they develop a lot of contacts,” Kitts confirmed. “Hornor Brothers’ extensive collection of old maps is a very good source of such information.”

Kelley contacted Paul Hornor, Jr., who quickly found the 1”=200’ property map outlining the Cecil Mine. Several days later, Hornor was asked to look again for any other maps or survey notes that might be in their vault.  The 1”=100’ mine map was discovered after several hours of searching.

“There was no federal funding in the early years regarding coal mining,” Hornor stated. “No government agencies kept track of where mining was taking place and what had already been mined so mine maps ended up being kept in many different locations. “We (Hornor Brothers) did a lot of mine maps. If we can assist ICG in finding information and facts, it’s important for us to do that for public knowledge.”

“Environmentally and safety wise,” affirmed Kitts,” it is necessary for us to take the steps to do everything right. With the Cecil Mine portal being just beneath the lake summer pool elevation it is critical to define the barrier separating the abandoned Cecil mine and our proposed mine,” affirmed Kitts. “This barrier will be a solid block of coal that will not be mined.”

“These maps contain property lines that match up with today’s surrounding property lines so this gives us confidence that the Cecil Mine is located where it is supposed to be”, Kitts continued.

According to several old reports by WV Office of Miners’ Health Safety & Training, 658 tons of coal were mined in 1909 from Cecil (No. 1) under Johnson Brothers Coal and Coke Company and, with numbers fluctuating over a period of several years, Cecil topped out with 52,526 tons in 1917 and concluded with 11,081 tons mined out in 1923 under the Sterling Coal and Coke Company.

In one report dated July 8, 1919, the State of WV Department of Mines reflected the number of employees in one split was forty-six men with two horses and two mules hauling the machinery into the mine and subsequently hauling the black gold back out into the daylight.

A July 17, 1923 clipping culled from Taylor County Public Library archives boasts “Village of Cecil Has Moved Away”, reporting “some months ago, Cecil had a population of 400” and was “a prosperous little mining town. Then suddenly the (coal) company decided that the coal supply was exhausted” and “not sufficient to justify carrying on there.” According to the document, “the company started tearing down the houses and moving them to the villages of Enterprise and Alliance, where they were reconstructed and coal mines opened there. Since there was no further employment at Cecil for the miners, why of course they went along with the houses. Cecil is no longer a village of hustle and hurry. There are no more than half a dozen families living in Cecil now.”

In 1937, the Cecil Bridge was dismantled and never rebuilt. When Tygart Dam was completed, the town of Cecil was underwater.

“It’s important,” Kitts added, “to establish communication with all sides of Taylor County citizens, so we hold the open houses. We appreciate their attendance at these meetings and we will continue to hold the open houses to address everyone’s concerns. As we promised last year, another open house will be held when we’re ready to start construction work.”

ICG plans to start construction of an access bridge across Three Forks Creek and the railroad promptly after the necessary permits are issued this spring. ICG indicated that site development work is expected to begin by mid-summer 2007.

On January 2, 2006, an explosion at the ICG-owned Sago Mine near Buckhannon swept away twelve lives in a blast and aftermath that has been described as one of the worst mining disasters in the United States. Communication on all issues, with safety being paramount, is important to ICG for what they hope will be a smooth transition into the county.

~ Part II of this report will appear in the Friday, May 11, 2007 issue of the Mountain Statesman ~

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