Area riverkeeper discusses Shepherd Bend

Jennifer Lamonaca

He said the ultimate goal of the opposition to the update of Shepherd Bend Mine is to get the University of Alabama to agree to never sell the land 
for mining.

“A coal mine can be stripped up to 300 feet from a residence,” said Brooke. “And even worse, they are aloud to mine up to 100 feet from a river.”

Brooke addressed the University of Alabama’s Environmental Council Thursday. In his speech, he said not only is this an environmental problem, but it affects the way of life in the 
area around.

“As UA Eco we are absolutely opposed to the mine and stand against the water damage to Birmingham,” said Madeleine Lewis, a sophomore and president of UA Eco.

UA Eco will ask the University not to sell or lease the land to Drummond Company, Lewis said. The mine would be 1,773 acres, which is a large-scale mine, according to the Black Warrior River Association.

It would discharge at 29 different places, including one across from a Birmingham Water Works Board intake. Ten of those 29 are also upstream of the drinking water location.

“We have been battling this since 2007 and remarkably we have held it off,” Brooke said.

The University owns most of Shepherd Bend around the river and mineral rights, said Charles Scribner, executive director Black Warrior Riverkeeper.

“They started actively shopping it to coal mining companies in 2007,” Scribner said.

The University has property all over Alabama and there are mines all over the state, Scribner said. All mining affects the land, but there is greater concern near a water source.

“What was unusual was when we looked at the map we saw that this particular coal mining proposal would be directly across the river from where 200 thousand people get drinking water a day,” he said.

Alabama doesn’t have a source water protection program, Brooke said. No regular studies are done with “no true process” to determine pollution problems, while other states have robust ways to protect the water.

In 2007, the UA Board of Trustees requested for mining proposals to “lease certain surface, mineral rights and fee simple lands to surface 
mine coal.”

Drummond Company Inc. has since requested and received permits to mine in Walker County, Brooke said. Drummond Company recently applied for renewal of those permits and the decision rests with Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Decisions have not 
been made.

Brooke said the University is not in communication with the Drummond Company right now. The resistance against the land being used for mining is a large percentage of people, 
Scribner said.

“The science is clear, public opposition to the mine is clear, there are over tens of thousands of people who have signed petitions asking the university to stop this mine and there are also over 140 businesses and non-profits who are part of the Shepherd Bend Opposition Coalition,” he said.

Lewis said she hopes to get more people at next week’s meeting as they discuss a plan of action. The meeting is open to anyone who is interested and will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. in 
Lloyd 202.