Our firm is currently litigating cases on behalf of property owners in Walker County, Alabama for property damage as a result of mine subsidence. Mine subsidence is the movement of surface property due to a failure in an underground mine’s support structure. In room and pillar mines like the one underneath our clients’ properties, giant underground rooms are mined and coal “pillars” are left behind for permanent surface support. If the mining companies fail to leave behind coal pillars capable of permanently supporting the surface, a catastrophic underground collapse can occur and cause substantial damage to surface property.
Due to the unpredictable nature of subsidence damage from room and pillar mines, these cases are expert intensive and extremely complicated. Adding to a subsidence case’s complexity, subsidence can occur either gradually or suddenly, and can appear in many different forms, including cracks, sinkholes, troughs, or fissures in the ground. If subsidence occurs underneath a home, the effects can compromise the foundation, cause water and gas main failure (creating a fire hazard), destroy the roof line and crack floors and walls.
Room and pillar mining lends itself to abuse by mining companies. For starters, the more coal the mining company mines, the more money it makes. As a result, there is a tremendous incentive to cut corners and “shave” support pillars (which are made of coal) to mine as much coal as possible. Additionally, once a room is completely mined, it is oftentimes closed off forever. As such, any evidence of wrongful pillar shaving is buried behind tons of stone walls deep in the mine. Finally, regulations place a much higher emphasis on temporary stability of mine structure to protect workers rather than permanent support of the surface. These “minimum standards” endanger the properties on the surface many years after the mine closes.
The cases are currently progressing through the discovery phase and should be ready for trial at the beginning of 2011. These cases are complex and involve powerful Defendants with unlimited resources. But Rhon Jones and Parker Miller, lawyers in our firm, are fighting to make a difference for their clients in Walker County, Alabama. If you need additional information on this subject contact Rhon or Parker at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rhon.Jones@beasleyallen.com or Parker.Miller@beasleyallen.com.
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