State environmental regulators say they have received applications for permits to store coal ash in mines, which would be a first in North Carolina.
Duke Energy wants to excavate millions of tons of coal ash from its Riverbend power plant west of Charlotte and Sutton plant in Wilmington and put it in open-pit clay mines in Chatham and Lee counties.
The Kentucky-based Charah Inc., one of the largest coal ash management companies in the country, has applied to convert the mines into combustion byproduct storage space. One mine is the Brickhaven No. 2 Mine Tract near Moncure, and the other is the Colon Mine Site in Sanford.
Application documents show the company anticipates putting 1.6 million tons of coal ash a year into each mine. At Brickhaven, that would continue for 7 ½ to 8 years, and at Colin from 5 to 5 ½ years. The company proposes to monitor each site for 30 years after they close.
The current owner of the mines, General Shale Brick Inc., has applied to transfer its mining permits to Charah’s landholding firm, Green Meadow LLC. Charah wants to begin work on the sites in early 2015.
On Nov. 13, Duke Energy announced it wants to ship coal ash from the Riverbend plant in Mount Holly and the Sutton plant in Wilmington to these two open-pit mines. The utility also wants to move some of the material from its Asheville site to the nearby airport, and to move some from the Dan River plant to a lined landfill in Jetersville, Va.
The moves are part of a state-mandated law requiring the closure of all coal ash pits by 2029.
Although coal ash is also stored at the Cape Fear power plant near Moncure, no plans have been announced to ship that material to the nearby Brickhaven mine.
The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources will review the applications. There will be a public hearing for the structural fill applications. The agency will also determine whether additional environmental permits are needed.