WARRICK COUNTY — Alcoa Warrick Operations said it has "decided to put on hold" a long-discussed expansion of coal mining at Liberty Mine, in northern Warrick County.

The expansion plan was controversial with Boonville city government officials and a group of residents near the mine, who said they supported the mining but wanted a larger buffer and additional safety measures put in place.

Alcoa, the city and the neighbors eventually reached a compromise allowing the mining by Vigo Coal on Alcoa's behalf to go forward. The expansion at Liberty Mine was to be used to fuel the partial restart of Alcoa's smelter operation.

But in a statement released Wednesday, Alcoa officials said they now plan to purchase coal from independently owned mines rather than expand Liberty Mine operations.

"This alternative plan will continue to provide a reliable and competitive source of fuel for the Warrick Power Plant while maintaining Liberty Mine’s coal reserves as a viable option for the future," Alcoa Warrick Operations said in a prepared statement.

"If the Liberty Mine’s south field is pursued in the future, we intend to use the same plans that were successfully designed to address feedback from the city of Boonville and Save Our Homes" (the group of neighbors.)

The previously announced partial restart of Alcoa's smelter operation is complete, with three potlines back in business, according to the company.

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