The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
(DEP) this summer launched a lengthy technical review of a permit application submitted by LCT earlier this year for the proposed Rustic Ridge No. 1 mine, according to DEP spokesman John Poister. A public hearing on the proposed permit is expected to be held in late fall, he said, although it is unclear if the agency will issue a final decision before the end of 2014 or in 2015.

In any event, LCT appears unlikely to commence production at Rustic Ridge until late 2015 or 2016, said Joe Lloyd of CME Engineering, which is handling the permitting process for LCT. LCT and Robindale officials could not be reached for comment. Rustic Ridge initially is targeted to produce less than 1 million tons of coal a year, but output could increase if the mine is eventually expanded, Lloyd said.

Rustic Ridge, a room-and-pillar operation, originally was known as the Donegal mine because of its location in Westmoreland County’s Donegal Township. Because there is another Donegal mine in the state, however, DEP asked the company to change the project’s name.

LCT, with headquarters in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, currently produces coal from two met mines in Somerset County, Pennsylvania’s second-largest coal-producing county behind Greene County. LCT’s largest mine is Brubaker, an underground operation that turned out nearly 100,000 tons in the first quarter of 2014, putting it on track to surpass 2013 production of 323,533 tons. Coal mined at Rustic Ridge will be sold into both domestic and export markets, Lloyd said.

Rustic Ridge is one of several new mines being developed by LCT. Others include Maple Springs, a deep mine, and Boone, a surface mine, both in Somerset County. Some residents in rural Somerset County have voiced opposition to the new mines.