Citizens tackle a mining company

  • Ann Tatum shows damage caused after subsidence cracked her house

    Carolyn Johnson
  Ann and Mike Tatum won one for the little guy when they convinced a Colorado judge that a coal mining company damaged their second home in Weston, Colo. Last December, Las Animas County District Court ordered Basin Resources to pay the Tatums $160,000 for cracks that appeared in their walls after the company tunneled nearby.


It's unusual for a citizen to take on the coal company and stick with it, says Carolyn Johnson of the Citizens Coal Council. "But hopefully," she says, "this will bring more people out."


The Tatums, residents of Houston, Texas, first noticed the cracks in 1991. Concerned that the damage was caused by nearby underground mines, they took their complaint first to the Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology, then to the U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining, the agency responsible for holding mining companies accountable for such damage. But officials told them repeatedly that the damage was not due to the mine.





"I've seen a lot of subsidence," says Mike Rosenthal of the Office of Surface Mining's Denver office. "I saw none of the usual signs in this case."


The Tatums decided to sue Basin Resources, arguing that the Office of Surface Mining was biased against citizens and was using the wrong tools to measure subsidence. Now, after their victory in the state court, the Tatums are appealing their case to the Department of Interior Board of Land Appeals, trying to overturn the ruling by the Office of Surface Mining that subsidence did not affect the house. It's a matter of principle, says Ann Tatum.


She says taking on a company like Basin Resources, a subsidiary of Montana Power Company, is expensive and intimidating. "I've made a lot of enemies and I'm proud of it," she says, "because somebody has to make these mines accountable."


For more information, contact Ann Tatum, 8703 Bon Homme, Houston TX 77074 (713/995-7045); Carolyn Johnson, Citizens Coal Council, 1705 S. Pearl, Room 5, Denver, CO 80210 (303/722-9119); Mike Rosenthal, Colorado Office of Surface Mining, 303/844-1453.





" Jennifer Chergo


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