BLM opens floor on West Elk expansion plans

THE US Bureau of Land Management has decided Arch Coal’s expansion of the West Elk mine in western Colorado will have no significant environmental impacts and has opened the operator’s preliminary assessment up for public comment.
BLM opens floor on West Elk expansion plans BLM opens floor on West Elk expansion plans BLM opens floor on West Elk expansion plans BLM opens floor on West Elk expansion plans BLM opens floor on West Elk expansion plans

Arch Coal's West Elk mine in Colorado.

Donna Schmidt

Arch subsidiary Mountain Coal has proposed adding about 1700 acres to the complex’s existing federal coal leases in Gunnison County.

Specifically, West Elk wishes to add 800 acres to lease COC-1362 and 921 acres to COC-67232, which will prevent the bypassing of up to 10.1 million recoverable tons of coal.

“The issuance of a lease modification is a commitment of the resource for potential exploration, mining, development and reclamation subject to further review and permitting actions by the state,” BLM Uncompahgre field manager Barb Sharrow said.

“The Uncompahgre Basin resource management plan … identifies federal coal lands that are suitable for further leasing consideration with stipulations or unsuitable for leasing.

“Additionally, the RMP identifies areas within the 83,334 acres of federal coal estate in Paonia/Somerset areas that would be suitable for further leasing consideration.”

Written comments must be received by the BLM’s Uncompahgre office in Montrose by July 9.

All input will be made available for public disclosure, including the contributor’s name, address and other information. Requests for anonymity are not guaranteed.

West Elk, in operation since 1982, produced about 6Mt last year.

It employs 378.

The BLM estimated the total direct economic benefits associated with the coal mines of the North Fork Valley area, which includes West Elk, exceeded $US60 million annually.

Gunnison County receives roughly $2 million each year in tax revenues from West Elk.

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