ATHENS TWP, Pa. (WETM) — Around 100 people were in attendance Tuesday night in Athens as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection held its final public meeting regarding the proposed Minard Mining Project.
At the hearing, at least a dozen people spoke to a panel of DEP officials as it was being transcribed and recorded for official records.
The DEP has yet to announce when a decision will be made regarding the approval or denial of the project, but Megan Lehman, Community Relations Coordinator with the DEP, said that it won’t be decided within the next month as they wait for the transcript from the hearing.
“We don’t have a specific timeline but I am able to say at least until we get the transcript back from tonight and that would be probably about a month,” Lehman said. “When we do make a decision we answer all those comments in a comment response document, and that will be placed on our website, and that goes point-by-point with everything that’s been submitted to us,” she said, “whether we approve or deny we do include that as part of the package,” she said.
Residents spoke both for and against the project as similar topics resurfaced from the meeting back in July.
Concerns over smoke from blasting, water contamination, erosion, indigenous artifacts, native animals, and other concerns were brought up by residents.
“We have all this natural wildlife, it may not be filmed, it may not be something you see regularly, but we all know it’s there,” said Kristine Litteer, a local resident of The Valley. “We all know that it’s going to be destroyed if the Bishops are allowed to destroy the side of the mountain,” she said.
As much as there were those against the project, a number of suppers were there to try and assure the public that what the Bishop Brothers plan to do is not only safe but will follow all DEP rules and regulations and help boost the local economy.
“There are comprehensive regulations in place that govern the release and exposure to silica,” said Dustin Bishop, Vice President of Bishop Brothers Construction. “Reducing the exposure to silica is first and primarily done through engineering controls that limit the production of silica dust,” he said. Bishop went on to say that although the facility will be around 300 acres, only 30 acres will be operated on at a time. He added that during the period of 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., during the week, an average of 25 trucks would be going in and out of the facility.
The mine received preliminary approval from Athens Township in early September in a four-to-one vote, leaving the final decision of the project up to the DEP.
18 News will continue to follow this story and provide updates when a decision has been made.