In nearby Hazard, housing developments, car lots and even a hospital have sprouted up on such property. The Federal Bureau of Prisons built a high-security penitentiary on a former mountaintop removal site outside Inez, and Prestonsburg has a golf course on mined land.
Ordinarily, coal companies are required under federal law to restore mountains to the original contour, said Tom FitzGerald, head of the Kentucky Resources Council. But an exception in the law allows mining companies to leave the land flat when that better serves postmining purposes.
Mike de Bourbon, a lawyer who heads the Pikeville airport’s governing board, said the board reached a deal with Central Appalachia Mining of Pikeville to mine in the city’s southern outskirts. The airport board owns the surface land, but not the coal beneath it.
The deal would create about 800 acres of flat land suitable for development. Mining has already begun on the project, which will bring the airport as much as $4 million in royalties, Mr. de Bourbon said.Mr. Blackburn said Pikeville officials had also tentatively agreed on a deal with the company to mine land on the city’s west side to flatten land for baseball and soccer fields.