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Humane Society: horses staying put on mine land

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DYLAN LOVAN
Associated Press

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A coal company that wanted to move a pack of wild horses off a former southeastern Kentucky surface mine site has agreed to leave the herd alone, the local Humane Society said Friday.

Harlan County Humane Society President Marcella Chadwick said Sequoia Energy wanted to move about 80 horses because they were destroying grasses planted as part of the company's federally mandated reclamation of a surface mine. The former surface mine is in an area known as Dingo in northwestern Harlan County.

Chadwick vowed earlier this month to fight the company's efforts to move the horses, which she said have been in the area for decades. She said an attorney she enlisted to help with the matter told her the company has backed off a proposal to move the horses.

"They've dropped it, and the horses are doing good," Chadwick said.

Sequoia Energy has not commented on the dispute. A call to Sequoia offices in Middlesboro was referred to the company's parent, Southern Coal Corp, in Roanoke, Va. A person who answered the phone at Southern Coal on Friday said no one would be available to comment on the matter. Southern Coal is owned by West Virginia billionaire Jim Justice and his relatives.

A message left Friday for the Humane Society's attorney, Russell Alred of Harlan, was not returned.

Sequoia Energy is currently performing a 95-acre reclamation project in Harlan County, according to state records. The company has so far reclaimed 92 acres.

The mined land in Harlan County was leased to Sequoia for mining purposes by three landowners, Chadwick said. She said the owners, who all live in Harlan County, wanted to horses to stay.

"It was pretty much just the reclaimers that wanted them moved, and when we put pressure on them they just stopped," Chadwick said.

Under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, coal companies are required to restore surface mined land stripped of soil and vegetation with plantings and other improvements. The former mine lands can also be converted into a commercial or residential use under the federal law.

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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.