Arch submitted a plan to lease 6175 additional acres (2500 hectares) managed by the US Bureau of Land Management for the extension of Sufco near Salina to mine approximately 52 million tons of coal.
Because the surface of the property is on forest land, namely the Fishlake and Manti-La Sal national forests, approvals from both the BLM and the USFS are required.
However, according to local news major the Salt Lake Tribune, Fishlake National Forest supervisor Allen Rowley withdrew the approval after environmentalists including the Utah Environmental Congress appealed on grounds that the agency’s roadless rule would be violated.
Additionally, the groups said the mining could threaten sage grouse.
The USFS pull-back does not necessarily mean a permanent end to any chances for Sufco’s expansion but the agency will now conduct additional studies before making a final decision.
“Because of the appeal, we are going to look at what we need to do to be able to get it approved,” Fishlake spokesman John Zappell told the paper.
UEC conservationists were pleased with what the move would mean for the population of sage grouse in the area.
“The new power lines, traffic and huge ventilation facilities would have been so harmful that the decision we challenged admittedly would have contributed to [the bird’s] formal Endangered Species Act listing,” program director Kevin Mueller said.
While an Arch Coal spokesperson did not comment on the USFS decision directly in an email to ILN, she did confirm that the company’s proposal was not an expansion to the size of the Sufco complex.
“The new reserve block (Greens Hollow) that we’re trying to secure will allow Canyon Fuel Company’s Sufco mine to advance,” she said.
“The mine intends to remain a longwall operation supported by the existing workforce of more than 350 employees.”
Sufco mine is the oldest active US coal mine west of the Mississippi River.