North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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December 26, 2013

County commission approves mine expansion near Kimberly

KIMBERLY — Despite the objections of more than a hundred nearby residents, the Jefferson County Commission has voted to allow the expansion of a strip mine just west of Kimberly.

The approval of a rezoning request came during Thursday’s regular commission meeting, and came on a 3-2 vote. Commissioners Joe Knight and Sandra Little Brown joined Commission President David Carrington in voting in favor of rezoning. Commissioners George Bowman and Jimmie Stephens opposed rezoning.

The vote will allow the Black Warrior Minerals of Cordova, which has operated a mine in the area off Sardis Road for almost three years, to expand its operations there. The current mine has been the subject of complaints by nearby residents over noise and vibrations caused by blasting at the mine almost since its inception.

A North Jefferson News story from July 2011 detailed complaints from residents in the Sardis Grove development about noise from blasting and machinery. At that time, homeowners Chris and Sheila Hill had a seismic service install a seismograph — a device usually associated with measuring movement caused by earthquakes — to measure shock waves caused by blasting.

At the hearing, attorneys representing the mining company told the commission that their clients had only 11 complaints from residents about damages since that time, and that all of them turned out to be caused by something other than mining activities. The company also kept a buffer zone greater than the 300 feet required by state law, the attorneys said.

About 50 to 75 residents attended the hearing, represented by attorney Clay Ragsdale, who specializes in environmental concerns. He said Monday that they still have recourse against Black Warrior Minerals by filing a lawsuit in circuit court. Indeed, Ragsdale is representing one family in the area who filed suit this summer.

“Residents have an opportunity to get the matter in court, where a judge can evaluate the interests of the parties,” Ragsdale said. “There’s already that lawsuit pending, and there are likely to be more filed as time goes by.”

The current lawsuit is in the discovery process; no date has been set for the next order of business in the case.

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