While many people have heard stories of the dangers of underground mining operations, the stories that are often forgotten are the ones told by surface property owners above those mines. Every year, mining companies tear through rock and remove minerals underneath the surface for a profit. The more minerals mined underneath the soil, the more money the mining company will make as a result. Unfortunately for the surface property owner, this process can wreck havoc on the home, the surrounding property and the water supply in the form of mine subsidence damage.
In general terms, mine subsidence is the sinking, cracking or settling of surface property as a result of an underground mine collapse. There are many ways that mine subsidence damages property. In high extraction methods like longwall mining, where rooms that span several hundred feet are completely robbed of coal, subsidence can be instant and devastating. In some instances, subsidence from longwall mining has been known to produce giant cracks several inches wide in home foundations and property, cave in portions of homes and cause giant sinkholes and troughs to form. In some of those same instances, homes are condemned and families are forced to vacate their premises.
In room and pillar mining, where rooms are mined and coal “pillars” are left behind as support, mine subsidence is unpredictable and can occur decades after the mine has closed. Subsidence from room and pillar mines usually takes the form of cracks and sinkholes on surface properties. However, if the mining company “robs” the pillars, or fails to provide pillars that are sturdy enough to support the surface over time, similar subsidence effects as are found in longwall mining can result.
Underground mining operations are also a threat to our water supply, natural streams, and lakes. Because mine subsidence can create cracks that permit water to escape into the earth’s crust, a subsidence event can cause water supply and natural water resources to disappear overnight. Additionally, contaminated water that collects inside the mine can be released during a subsidence event and contaminate adjacent drinking water wells and streams with poisonous water.
Oftentimes in these cases, property owners are approached by the mining companies and are convinced to settle for amounts significantly less than they would receive with representation. It has been our experience that settlement deals should never be struck with parties that share a conflicting interest without legal representation.
We are committed to investigating and pursuing claims on behalf of property owners that have suffered significant property damage as a result of mine subsidence. Rhon Jones and Parker Miller, lawyers in the Toxic Torts Section of our firm, are investigating these claims. Should you need additional information, you can contact Rhon or Parker by calling 800-898-2034 or by email at Rhon.Jones@beasleyallen.com or Parker.Miller@beasleyallen.com.
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