Alpha affiliate earns environmental recognition

PARAMONT Coal Company Virginia, an affiliate of Alpha Natural Resources, has been recognized as the recipient of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission's 2016 National Reclamation Award.

Lou Caruana

The IMCC honored Paramont's Hawks Nest reclamation site in Buchanan County, Virginia, for the company's dedication to the maintenance of environmental protection through efficient mining and reclamation practices.

The former site of a pre-law surface mine near Grundy, Virginia, where active mining began again in 2004, the Hawks Nest development now includes the Southern Gap business park with industrial and business sites, a growing residential area, and recreation opportunities such as the Poplar Gap community park, with numerous athletic fields, a large playground and gymnasium.

When Paramont Coal began the ongoing reclamation process shortly after mining began at Hawks Nest, the Buchanan County, Virginia Industrial Development Authority (IDA) had only five acres of land for potential development in the entire county, primarily due to steep terrain.

IDA Director Craig Horn said the county had looked for a partner, “but until Paramont agreed, we could not find one with the ability or foresight for the project. The partnership with Paramont at Hawks Nest has grown the potential for development to more than 1,100 acres owned by the county. The major growth in Buchanan County for the next 40 to 50 years, including hotels and shopping, manufacturing and business, will be located in Southern Gap.”

VP of Operations Blake Hall credits that same foresight that Buchanan County IDA Director Craig Horn referenced for much of the success of the Hawks Nest reclamation: “Environmental stewardship is a priority within any mine plan, and we pride ourselves on demonstrating how reclaimed land can bring opportunities to the region after the mining has been completed.”

Paramont's work has included restoration of more than 4,500 feet of stream and the extensive planting of hybrid American Chestnut trees, working in cooperation with the American Chestnut Foundation. The popular hardwoods once covered many ridgetops in the southeast, but they were all but wiped out by blight early last century.

The reforestation at Hawks Nest has attracted elk to roam the site, leading the nearby Breaks Interstate Park to establish elk viewing tours this year.