Alpha Natural Resources, owner of the Twilight Mine where the Jarrell Family Cemetery is located, is speaking out to tell their side of the story.
Director of Media Relations for Alpha Natural Resources, Steve Higginbottom, says the company has respected the family members and understands their desire to visit the graves of their ancestors. He goes on to say allegations the lawsuit has made are untrue and takes strong offense to the accusation that employees would intentionally desecrate these graves.
“Our miners are men and women of character who themselves have lost loved ones in the past and understand what these gravesites stand for and mean,” said Higginbottom, “We have not mined within 100 feet of the cemetery, have not caused headstones to topple and have in no way prevented family members from visiting the gravesites. We have, in fact, gone above and beyond the letter and spirit of the permit and the law and taken steps to ensure that the cemetery is not impacted, that the family has access and that they’re safe while on mine property.”
Higginbottom says family members are allowed to take their cameras into the cemetery and visitors are given privacy while there; neither mine personnel nor DEP officials go into the cemetery with them. For the visitors’ safety, escorts are with them at all other times and take them to and from the cemetery.
According to Higginbottom, other actions to protect the cemetery taken by Alpha includes having third parties survey the cemeteries to document their condition prior to any mining activity and seismographs are also placed in the vicinity to ensure that all blasting is in compliance with state and federal regulations. He says Alpha has records and documentation that confirm the integrity of the grave sites.
There is a specific process required under Alpha’s state mine permit for allowing family members to visit the cemetery. That includes scheduling the visit ahead of time, getting a safety briefing before accessing the site and having a company representative escort the visitors to the cemetery to ensure their safety. The safety briefing – which all visitors to the site must receive in accordance with Mine Safety and Health Administration regulations – is intended to ensure their safety on a mining site.
Higginbottom said Alpha has exhibited their willingness to respect and work with the family by installing a fence for the benefit of the cemetery; the fence was not required by the permit or any other stipulation; maintaining constant access to the cemetery and re-grading and re-stoning the road in anticipation of having them visit during the Memorial Day weekend and cleaning the cemetery and scrubbing the headstones after a forest fire.