The companies—Frasure Creek Mining LLC, Essar Minerals, Trinity Corp., Trinity Coal Partners LLC, Bear Fork Resources LLC, Falcon Resources LLC and Prater Branch Resources LLC—are accused in the suit, filed in June in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, of illegally dumping pollutants from mining sites in Floyd, Magoffin and Pike counties in eastern Kentucky into five tributaries of the Levisa Fork River.

Essar Minerals, a subsidiary of Mumbai, India-based Essar, acquired Trinity and its subsidiaries in 2010 for approximately $600 million from Denham Capital, a global private equity firm in Boston, Mass.

According to the suit, the companies began surface mining at the 682-acre Bear Fork site in Pike County in December 2005, constructing two hollow-fills and two sediment ponds in streams at the site without a CWA permit.

On November 1, 2007, the suit said, surface mining operations commenced at the 768-acre Hale Fork site in both Floyd and Magoffin counties. One hollow-fill and three sediment ponds were constructed in streams at the site without a CWA suit, the suit said. The suit said the defendants never obtained a Section 404 CWA permit for their mining operations at Bear Fork or Hale Fork, “despite the fact that their surface mining operations involved excavating coal seams, then placing the excavated rock and dirt, or overburden, in streams that are jurisdictional waters of the United States.”

Since 2005, the companies’ surface mining operations have resulted in the excavation and filling of approximately 11,256 linear ft of streams at the two sites, the suit said—approximately 7,750 linear ft at Bear Fork and 3,506 linear ft at Hale Fork. Streams at the two sites are “perennial streams that are tributaries to Levisa Fork.”

A spokesman for Essar Group in London, England, declined to comment.

In early July, the United States and the defendants filed a stipulation with the court that gives the companies until August 17 to submit their formal answer to the government’s complaint.

Essar Group has operations in more than 25 countries across five continents, including North America. It employs 75,000 people and has annual earnings of more than US$27 billion.