Palmer Coking Coal Company wants to expand its mining operations beyond Black Diamond, a proposal that has received backlash from locals concerned about the environmental impact.
According to the King County Department of Local Services, PCCC has applied for rezoning of a 240-acre parcel located off Enumclaw-Franklin Road SE, just northwest of Fish Lake and Nolte State Park. The proposal calls for rezoning from an RA-5 zone (i.e. a rural residential area) to a mining zone.
The zone is already a sand and gravel mine called the Hyde Mine, owned by PCCC. However, due to the current zone designation, the company has not been able to use it.
Tim O’Brien, a spokesperson for locals opposed to the rezone, outlined numerous issues that could arise in expanding the PCCC mine.
“There are already 17 active gravel mines in the Enumclaw/Ravensdale/Black Diamond area… The rural community of Enumclaw/Ravensdale is already overburdened by the impact of gravel mines and there is no shortage of rocks along the Cascade foothills,” said he in a recent email interview. “I believe this project will have significant impacts on surface and groundwater in the area, including both the Icy Creek Springs and Black Diamond Springs. Both are important sources of cold water for critical salmon and trout habitats, as well as drinking water for thousands.”
O’Brien also said the mine could cause more severe flooding of Fish Lake, divert flooding to more homes and make local roads more dangerous due to increased heavy truck traffic.
PCCC manager Nolan Kombol said the company has been mining unincorporated King County since 1933 and that they have an “interest in maintaining and improving the land we work on.”
“All of these items are examined during the [SEPA] application process… we had independent firms review things like water or noise or traffic effects to assess risk,” he said, citing the state Environmental Policy Act. “Everything came back pretty clear.”
Kombol added they don’t expect the mine – which if opened will produce an estimated 250,000 tons of material annually – will deplete local resources, and while he said it will bring additional traffic to Enumclaw-Franklin Road, it will still be “well below” the limit of traffic that can take the road.
Finally, Kombol said the gravel they will be extracting is an absolute necessity for development, and since the county is expected to continue to grow, it is likely much more environmentally friendly to source it locally than to source gravel from eastern Washington or another state. transport.
“The location of this site has already been identified as resource land. It is adjacent to an existing sand and gravel quarry. The quality of the product there is sufficient to provide what is needed for road and housing construction,” he said, noting that the mine has been marked for repurposing in King County’s comprehensive plan since 1990. for plans like this… if it doesn’t happen here, it happens somewhere else.”
PCCC also expects to add jobs when the mine opens, but the company has no hard numbers on that at the moment.
It is unclear when the rezone could be picked up by King County Council.
PCCC officially submitted its rezoning application to King County in December 2021. The application was completed last January and the deadline for public comments was May 22.
However, there are numerous reviews of the project that must take place before the repurposing can take place; the Department of Natural Resources and Parks, the Department of Transportation, Public Health and numerous other agencies will investigate the project before a hearing examiner makes a recommendation to the county council.
And that’s not all – even if the rezone goes ahead, PCCC will still need to apply for a mining permit, so it could be years before mining begins.
A public meeting on the rezone was organized in Black Diamond in November 2021 at the Black Diamond Bakery; the room was packed with people concerned about mining in the area.
Palmer Coking Coal, which operated Washington’s last underground coal mine, stopped mining coal 35 years ago and now sells landscape products such as sand, gravel and topsoil.