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A group of coal companies owned by a massive India conglomerate ran illegal surface mines in eastern Kentucky that polluted waterways, according to lawsuit filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA is alleging that mountaintop removal mines in three counties dumped pollutants into tributaries of the Levisa Fork River in 2005 and 2007.
The mines were run by Trinity Coal Corp. and its subsidiaries, based in Scott Depot, W.Va. Trinity has been owned since 2010 by Mumbai-based Essar Group, which owns coal reserves around the world and has business interests in 25 countries.
Its Essar Minerals division is named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Pikeville federal court.
An email message sent to a spokesman for Essar in England was not returned on Thursday. A phone message left for Trinity Coal vice president Eric Calvert was also not returned.
The suit said Trinity's companies began mining operations on a 682-acre site in Pike County in December 2005 without a Clean Water Act permit. Two years later, it began operations on a 768-acre site along the Magoffin and Floyd County line without the permit. The surface mining operations at those two sites have led to the dumping of earth, rock and spoil into more than two miles of streams, the suit said.
The material remains in the streambeds, and the companies "do not have and have never had a valid CWA permit authorizing the discharge of fill material" at the sites, the suit said.
The companies named in the suit along with Essar Minerals and Trinity were Frasure Creek Mining, Bear Fork Resources, Falcon Resources and Prater Branch Resources. All four listed the same Scott Depot address.
Essar Minerals completed a $600 million purchase of Trinity in March 2010 to secure a supply of metallurgical coal for its international steel business. Trinity operated 13 mines and owned about 200 million tons of coal reserves at the time of the sale.
Frasure Creek was fined $310,000 by the state of Kentucky in 2010 for filing faulty water quality reports. Environmental groups intervened in court, arguing that Frasure Creek's fines for the violations were too low. The case is in mediation.
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