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updated: 2/1/2018 8:04 PM

Indiana dispute over mining regulations comes to standstill

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BOONVILLE, Ind. -- A dispute between southwestern Indiana residents and Alcoa Corp. over local mining regulations has come to a standstill.

Boonville Mayor Charlie Wyatt and an association of about 40 residents say Pittsburgh-based Alcoa refused to put into writing a compromise the parties had reached about an expansion of coal mining, The Evansville Courier & Press reported.

"What Alcoa has done is send a message - they have said that they are not willing to be bound to their promises," Wyatt said. "They would rather sue the city and fight with landowners than to simply agree to sign a piece of paper to be bound by an agreement they negotiated themselves."

Alcoa filed a lawsuit against Boonville last week after the city approved an ordinance that bans explosives for mining within 3 miles of the city.

"This legal action will provide clarity on an important issue as it relates to business and property rights in Warrick County," Ed Hemmersbach, vice president of operations for Alcoa, said in a news release.

City officials said the rules will protect residents because state regulations only require mines be at least 300 feet from homes. Residents said they don't oppose the mining but want a larger buffer zone than mandated by the state, along with some other steps to protect safety and property values.

Hemmersbach said Alcoa is "committed to working with our community, but the ordinance oversteps Boonville's jurisdictional authority."

Alcoa officials said they offered to take several actions beyond what rules or regulations require, and agreed to describe those in writing and publicly announce them at a Boonville City Council meeting. They said Boonville refused to rescind its ordinance or schedule a meeting to do so.

The expansion at Liberty Mine is needed to provide fuel for partially restarting a smelter plant at Alcoa's Warrick Operations along the Ohio River near Evansville, according to Alcoa.

The company said it plans on restoring about 275 of the 600 jobs it cut by shutting down the smelter plant in 2016.

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com

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