UAB student government opposes Shepherd Bend mine

Tray Smith

Student Government leaders at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have joined a growing list of community organizations in expressing their opposition to a potential strip mine on University of Alabama property at Shepherd Bend in Walker County. The UAB Undergraduate Student Government Association has unanimously adopted a resolution asking the University of Alabama not to allow the land to be used for coal mining.

Andrew Hayes, a member of the USGA Senate at UAB who co-authored the resolution, said the issue is important to UAB students.

“This issue is very pertinent to our students, and the decision made by the board will echo endlessly,” Hayes said. “We felt the need to clearly voice our opinion on behalf of the UAB student body.”

Hayes said the USGA opposed the strip mine because it could threaten water quality throughout Birmingham, not just for UAB students.

“We try to tie UAB and the Birmingham community in as much as possible,” Hayes said. “It’s obviously something that has gotten the attention of the entire community.”

The resolution resolves to implore “the University of Alabama System to neither sell nor lease their significant land and mineral holdings to allow coal mining at Shepherd Bend.”

A permit for the proposed mine was awarded to Shepherd Bend LLC, a company owned by the Drummond family, in 2010 by the Alabama Surface Mining Commission.  It would be located on part of 1,300 acres UA owns along the Black Warrior River and would discharge wastewater 800 feet away from a Birmingham Water Works Board in-take facility that supplies water for 200,000 Birmingham-area residents.

According to Black Warrior Riverkeeper, an organization opposed to the mine, coal mining at Shepherd Bend may not be economically feasible without access to the University’s land in the area. The University has said it has no plans to sell or lease the land.

Dexter Forbes, president of the Green Initiative at UAB and a co-author of the resolution, said that he hopes the resolution will lead to more conversation about the issue.

“I hope that this resolution will encourage the UA System Board of Trustees to open up a dialogue about Shepherd Bend and join the students of the UA system in protecting our city’s drinking water,” Forbes said.

Charles Scribner, executive director of Black Warrior Riverkeeper, said the USGA resolution is a strong statement from UAB students.

“The UAB Student Government has made a strong statement that they want to protect their city’s drinking water and their University’s reputation from the Shepherd Bend Mine proposal,” Scribner said.