When the closure of the last mine occurred in the mid 90’s, some would argue that sent the county on a downward spiral – high unemployment and growing poverty as the loss of jobs was difficult to recover from.
But hope may be on the horizon as news of the possible reopening of Justus Mine in Stearns was released Thursday during the Fiscal Court meeting.
The Court released a resolution supporting reopening the mine, stating the Stearns Energy Company is pursuing purchasing the operation and is in negotiations with potential buyers for the mined coal
McCreary County Property Valuation Administer Bruce Lominac, along with Sheriff Randy Waters, have been working closely with representatives of the company and said this week that the probability of the mine reopening is very high.
Lominac said the owners of the company are hesitant to disclose much information concerning their operation before any deals are finalized, but he did confirm that this venture has been devolping for quite a while.
“I feel like we are getting close to the end of a long journey,” he said Tuesday.
After speaking with the owner of the company Lominac said all the groundwork has been laid to reopen, the only missing piece is a contract with a customer to purchase the coal mined.
“They have people in place to mine the product, run the plant and transportation already lined up,” Lominac said. “It would employ 80 to 100 people at the start.”
Public utility companies, such as electric, water and rail, have already visited the site to see what utilities would be necessary if it were to reopen, and coal and water samples have been taken.
“They are very serious about this,” Lominac said. “They are aware of the rich history of the mine and the county, and are very excited to become part of that and to be an integral part of the community.”
In addition to new jobs being added, the company would be very active in the community and would work with other businesses and industries to help the people of McCreary County, Lominac said.
Once negotiations are finalized with potential buyers, operations could begin almost immediately, Lominac said.
“Stearns presents a strategic advantage in proximity and high quality product for both East Kentucky Power’s Cooper Power Plant and TVA’s Kingston Power Plant,” Lominac said. “I believe that doing business with a neighbor would be good business for all concerned and was the basis for the show of local government support”.
While the resolution does little but show the local government’s support for the possibility of reopening the mine, Lominac said it was a great show of faith to the company, who was not asked anything of the County other than to support it.