Ohio Approves Controversial Mining Permit on Public Lands

September 23, 2015


The Ohio Supreme Court ruled less than a year ago that owners of mineral rights beneath parklands could strip-mine the areas to extract coal and other resources. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recently agreed to allow companies to strip-mine for coal in parks and preserves owned by the state despite the department’s objections.


Natural Resources said it had no choice but to issue a permit to Oxford Mining Co. on July 7 to strip-mine beneath the 18,011-acre Egypt Valley Wildlife Area in eastern Ohio. Oxford plans to mine for coal beneath 741 acres of the wildlife area. The permit allows about 200 acres to be surface-mined. After the mining is completed, Oxford will be required to reclaim the land by planting native trees and other vegetation.


Oxford presented a sworn affidavit to Natural Resources saying it had leased the right to mine for coal from Marietta Coal Co., which owns the mineral rights for the Egypt Valley land. Natural Resources granted mining rights in accordance with the directive from the Supreme Court. However, the affidavit and other documents did not include a copy of the deed for mineral rights proving that Oxford has the right to strip-mine.


The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide environmental group, believes Natural Resources should have done more to protect the area. The group believes Natural Resources should have required a copy of the deed for mineral rights before granting Oxford the permit for mining. Natural Resources said the agency is satisfied with the affidavit that was presented and does not need a copy of the deed.


The Egypt Valley area consists mostly of reclaimed lands that were last strip-mined in 1998. Most of the Egypt Valley area was mined before a reclamation law was passed in 1977. Many high walls, pits, spoil piles, and impoundments were left. Conservancy groups have helped to purchase land over the years to expand the wildlife area.


Environmental groups and off-road enthusiasts opposed the permit because they believe strip-mining would disturb wildlife habitats and off-road trails created by the state. Supporters of mining say the land would eventually be restored.


Approximately 40 percent of the state-owned parks, forests, and wildlife and nature preserves in Ohio could be open to mining or drilling since previous landowners retained mineral rights after the state bought the land. Oxford is in discussions with Natural Resources about leasing 1,400 acres in Perry State Forest for strip-mining.