Human burial remains found at site of future Ford battery plant project in Kentucky

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Nineteen unmarked burial sites were discovered earlier this spring at the spot of Ford Motor Co.’s planned electric vehicle battery plants in Kentucky’s  Hardin County, the Army Corps of Engineers confirmed Monday.

The discovery occurred in March after the corps required Ford to contract with an archaeologist “to examine a possible cemetery location” within the proposed site of the automaker’s twin battery plants by Interstate 65, Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District spokeswoman Katie Newton told The Courier Journal.

Newton said the archaeological work was part of the Department of the Army permit application review process for the $5.8 billion project that Ford unveiled last September, envisioning twin battery plants on a roughly 1,500-acre manufacturing campus that will create 5,000 full-time jobs.

Ford plans to build the BlueOvalSK Battery Park through a joint venture with SK Innovation, a South Korea-based firm, and the plants will make batteries for electric vehicles such as its new F-150 Lightning truck.

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“A previous burial relocation occurred at the site pursuant to Kentucky state law in 2003; however the Corps had no involvement with that relocation,” Newton wrote in an email. “The Corps is currently coordinating with the Kentucky Heritage Council/Kentucky State Historic Preservation Office and family descendants regarding the unmarked burials. A plan for the relocation of the cemetery is under review and the relocation must occur in accordance with Kentucky state law.”

Newton added it is “not anticipated” the cemetery relocation plan review will delay the permit decision for the project.

More details on the discovery of human remains were not immediately available Monday evening.

Gov. Andy Beshear has called the twin battery plants the largest individual project and biggest job-creation announcement in Kentucky’s history, with state lawmakers approving hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives for Ford’s planned investment.

Construction is expected to begin this year. Ford officials have said the first of the two manufacturing facilities should begin production in 2025 and the second one in 2026.

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