Coal swap going to Congress

LEADERS of Montana’s Northern Cheyenne tribe have sought to revive a three-way coal swap between the tribe, the US federal government and a Texas coal company.

Sadie Davidson

The swap would rectify a mistake made in 1990 when the government expanded the reservation but failed to acquire the underlying minerals.

Representatives for the tribe issued the measure, which called for the government to turn over 112 million short tons of publicly owned coal to Houston-based Great Northern Properties.

The coal is in tracts located near Signal Peak Energy’s Bull Mountain mine and near Westmoreland Coal’s Absaloka mine north of the reservation.

According to the tribe, in return GNP would hand over 117 million short tons of coal from its reservation to the tribe.

An earlier version of the bill failed as it was heavily critiqued for giving GNP more than the tribe received.

The hope is that the new bill will keep the focus on the tribe’s claims rather than financial benefit for GNP.

The tribe is working alongside Senator John Walsh on companion legislation that will be introduced in the Senate in coming weeks.

The tribe has no fixed plans to develop the reservation’s coal but it has been in talks with mining companies.

Elders of the tribe said that if matters were to proceed, any mine proposal would have to be put to the Northern Cheyenne’s full membership for a vote.