Friday, September 17, 2010

Protesters voice opposition to strip mine proposal

Protesters voice opposition to strip mine proposal

Members of the Coalition of Alabama Students for the Environment and concerned citizens protest on the corner of University Boulevard and Second Court on Thursday. The group opposes a proposed strip mine that would be near Cordova along the Black Warrior River.
By Wayne Grayson Staff Writer
Published: Friday, September 17, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 11:21 p.m.
TUSCALOOSA | Richard and Dianne Robinson made a 90-minute drive Thursday to protest a proposed strip mine on land owned by the University of Alabama along the Black Warrior River near Cordova.

“We live less than a mile away from a strip mine they just finished,” said Dianne Robinson, 60. “They blasted all during the day, and until about 3 a.m. they run their trucks.
“You couldn’t sleep at night for all the noise.”
The Robinsons joined about 50 other residents and UA students at the corner of University Boulevard and Second Court on the UA campus Thursday afternoon to protest the strip mine proposal.
Protesters were confined to a small “free speech zone” at that intersection, and at one point, one of them yelled, “This side of the rope is America and the other isn’t.”

A subsidiary of the Drummond Co., Jasper-based Shepherd Bend applied for a mining permit from the Alabama Surface Mining Commission in May to strip mine 286 acres off a tributary of the river.
The site of the proposed mine is owned by UA, which sought bids for 1,300 acres of land it owns off Mulberry Fork, a fork of the Black Warrior River.
Residents near the site fear that the project will cripple potential development near Interstate 22, a nearly complete interstate from Birmingham to Memphis with two exits near the community.

They are also concerned that the mine’s wastewater discharges could contaminate the water in Mulberry Fork, which provides drinking water for more than 200,000 Birmingham Water Works customers. The utility has sent a letter of opposition to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
“They say they’ll be so far up the river that it won’t make a difference, but it will,” said Richard Robinson, 78.

photo by Nelson Brooke,
“There are already seven houses up for sale in our neighborhood because of this, because they’re scared they won’t be able to sell them when the mining begins,” Dianne Robinson said. “It’s just sad the university would choose to do something like this.”
Protesters originally planned to gather near the Bryant Conference Center, where the UA system’s board of trustees met Thursday. The strip mine was not on the meeting’s agenda, nor did trustees or administrators mention the protest during the meeting.
Although the Drummond Co. requested that UA advertise a lease for the land in 2007, the company didn’t respond to the request for proposals, and neither Drummond nor any of its subsidiaries have requested a lease since.
Typically, a mining company gets a permit to mine the land before approaching landowners.
UA spokeswoman Debbie Lane said she couldn’t speculate about what UA administrators would do if approached to lease the land for a strip mine.

photo by Nelson Brooke,

“If we were approached, we would carefully consider the environmental considerations,” she said.
There are no plans to lease the land right now, Lane said.
Mallory Flowers is a member of the Coalition of Alabama Students for the Environment, which organized the protest, and the president of the UA Environmental Council.
“Strip mining has a long history of negatively affecting communities, ecologies and economies,” she said. “We hope that the board of trustees will see us out here today and understand that we don’t support a strip mine on any University of Alabama property now or any time in the future.
“We hope that they’ll realize that our role as students and the largest group of shareholders on this campus does make a difference.”

Brittnie McKee, 22, is a junior at UA and said she was disappointed that the university chose to confine protesters to such a small space.

“I think it’s wrong. We shouldn’t have to have such a restricted area,” she said. “We say this country was built on free speech, but this doesn’t look like it.”
McKee said that though the UA trustees may not have seen the protest, others driving by would.
“I think it’s important that people know the dangers of wastewater runoff and strip mining,” she said. “Mining can be good for a community, but you have to look at what you end up doing to the water.”

All photos and video by
John L. Wathen,
Your Hurricane CREEKKEEPER

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