AVERY COUNTY — Explosions at a gravel mine in western North Carolina are being felt all the way to Raleigh. WRAL News first reported the state admits making mistakes in granting a strip mining permit. In trying to right those wrongs, it held a public meeting Thursday night in Avery County.
Emotions ran high as residents and others spoke out about protecting Belview Mountain.
"This is our rightful public hearing. We have our opportunity to be heard and we're going to be heard. Ya'll can't stop us. We have a right under the law," says resident John Bledsoe.
The state granted the permit for the Belview Mountain gravel mine without realizing it was not too far from America's most famous footpath -- the Appalachian Trail.
"It is going to ruin not just that area, but hundreds of miles of scenic visibility," says Danielle Droitsch, who is charged with protecting the Appalachian Trail.
"The people in this community and the people that walk on this trail were rolled over. A bad decision was made, and they weren't even told about it," she says.
Charles Gardner, of the N.C. Division of Land Resources, is the man responsible for issuing the mining permit. He calls the situation an "unfortunate oversight."
"We had no expressions of concern from anybody at the time the permit was being processed," says Gardner.
"Well it's pretty hard to make or express public concern over something you don't know anything about. The people were kept in the dark," says Bledsoe.
Had the state known the Appalachian Trail was within two miles of the mine, it may never have let the process get this far.
"Well for one thing, we have a very small staff. We have seven people to handle 800 mines," says Gardner.
Residents at the public hearing say they were not properly notified
"This is family property and I feel like I'm being squeezed out," says homeowner Faye Williams.
"I can see it out my kitchen window," she says of the mine. "You know when you feel your home shake and your windows rattle when they dynamite? You know you really can't do anything about it."
Will the state revoke the permit? At the very least, its says it will put limitations on the mine.
To some, the state's response is as misty as the mountain top, a mountain they say is now mangled and may never be the same.
For its part, the mining company says it has followed all regulations and may sue if the state revokes its mining permit.
The state is now considering its options and expects to make some decisions within a month.