Perhaps the most amazing incident related to Magnet mine above Riffe Branch happened the day insurance adjusters from the mine were standing in the yard at one of the residences below the mine. A blast let off, and a rock sailed over the adjusters' heads, over the house and into the creek. The insurance company did not grant the residents' claim for damage from the blasting at the mine, according to neighbor Ralph Preece.
Born in nearby Holden, Preece moved with his family to a house near the start of this long hollow as a small child. His father was a miner, and some of his sisters and brothers are still involved with mines. Preece went into the military and spent his career there. Like many West Virginians, the tugs from the homeplace were strong. He moved back and built a
sunlit new house, mostly by himself. Little did he realize what the mine would do to his life. The Magnet mine is on the ridge to the east (left in photo) of his
house. The mountains to the west may soon disappear under a new Consol Mine. The permit hasn't been granted, yet, and Preece plans to protest.
Preece estimates that 45 to 50 of the homes in the community have been affected by the mine and the blasting. One day he found a 25-pound rock in his yard that traveled about 2,000 feet off the mine. The mine was originally fined $1,000, but that was negotiated down to next to nothing, Preece said.
At least one well has gone dry. Others just have bad water. One neighbor has water that smells terrible, Preece said. Another family was sick for a year. Once they started drinking bottled water, they got better.
Last August, a washout came from the valley fill up the hollow. It was obvious to the residents that the water that ended up on in their stream and road came from the mine.
Preece has gotten to know the DEP all too well in the past few years. He has learned to understand permits and how to file complaints. Finally, he said, DEP officials told him they couldn't do anymore and he should get a lawyer. He did. Now nine other families have joined the case. A representative of Magnet Coal says the claims of damage have been investigated by government agencies. The mine has not been found responsible for any damages to the properties, he said. However, the mine has been fined at least once for allowing flyrock to go off site.
Preece's next struggle will be against the Consol mine. It will be filling a hollow less than 1,500 feet from his new house.
The Magnet mine can be seen straight ahead in this photograph. The Consol mine will be off to the left and on the mountain opposite this one. Ten families who lived up the
hollow to the left of the building were bought out. They each got about $60,000, Preece said. It was probably more than their houses were worth. But after they bought land and new mobile homes, they barely had enough money to turn on electricity.
"I know they are going to mine, and we probably aren't going to stop that," Preece said. "The powers that be are going to let them. But they should be responsible. The companies aren't from the state. They just come and leave. They don't put anything into the state."