Our firm also represents some property owners in Walker County for damages associated with mine subsidence. In room and pillar mines like the one underneath our clients’ properties, giant underground rooms are mined and coal “pillars” are left behind to support the surface. If the mining companies fail to leave behind coal pillars capable of permanently supporting the surface, an underground collapse can occur and cause damage to surface property in the form of mine subsidence. 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.
As we have reported previously, room and pillar mining lends itself to abuse by the coal companies. Regulations place a much higher emphasis on temporary stability of a mine structure to protect workers than on requiring the coal companies to provide permanent support of the surface. In addition, the more coal the company mines, the more money it makes. Finally, once a room is completely mined, it is oftentimes closed off forever – leaving any evidence of wrongdoing buried under thousands of tons of rock. Given this, it is no wonder that coal companies would choose to mine in a manner resulting in surface subsidence.
These cases are extremely complex and involve powerful Defendants with unlimited resources. Subsidence can be unpredictable, and can occur gradually or suddenly, and can appear in many different forms on the surface. Adding to the complexity of these cases, the mine at issue is oftentimes abandoned and sealed off – leaving only what appears on the surface and 20-year-old documents (or older) to tell the tale of the mining procedure.
Rhon Jones, Parker Miller and Kyle Shirley are working on these cases and the first subsidence case should try in August 2011. If you would like more information about these cases, please contact Rhon Jones, Parker Miller or Kyle Shirley at Rhon.Jones@beasleyallen.com, Parker.Miller@beasleyallen.com and Kyle.Shirley@beasleyallen.com, respectively.
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