Strip-mining company files civil suit against Va. land trust

Gift of site containing vermiculite at issue


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The pretrial litigation has reached the five-year mark with depositions and arguments ever growing in Dickensian stacks dense enough to make the judge cry out.

"This court has been submerged," complained Judge James Michael here in U.S. District Court.

"No more of these 180-page briefs," he ordered the battery of lawyers, as he applied a firm hand to one of the more enigmatic environmental lawsuits inching its way across a highly valued corner of the nation.

The civil suit involves a group of preservationists in a rustic antebellum enclave of Louisa County and two strip-mining companies, but not in the usual configuration.

This time, it is Historic Green Springs Inc., the nonprofit group of preservationists, that is being sued after decades of aggressively using the courts to help create a 11,000-acre land trust of 18th-century working farms and Civil War plantation houses.

Through conservation easements, the local property owners agree not to develop their land.

The Green Springs land trust is being accused by one of the mining companies, Virginia Vermiculite Ltd., of participating in an antitrust conspiracy in having accepted a gift of 1,400 acres of vermiculite-rich land for the trust.

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