Mine idea no longer buried

The Bureau of Land Management is preparing a new look at a proposed coal mine in the Bookcliffs north of Loma, a project that critics thought they had buried.

The public can suggest how the agency should prepare an environmental impact statement on the lease of federal coal for the proposed Red Cliff coal mine north of Loma during a scoping session this month.

The BLM in 2009 abandoned a draft environmental impact statement on the mine after deciding that the study had fatal flaws, including a failure to study an adequate range of alternatives.

CAM-Colorado LLC is asking the BLM to consider the project anew.

“I thought it had died,” said Eric Rechel, of the Mesa County chapter of the Western Colorado Congress.

The BLM, Rechel said, ought not proceed with the study until it completes its new resource-management plan, a document that is to guide the office for the next 20 or more years on the management of more than 1 million acres.

“I wouldn’t want there to be a conflict of uses,” Rechel said.

CAM-Colorado is asking that BLM move ahead with the environmental study, which would be used for a lease auction of 14,160 acres that overlay 78 million tons of federal coal reserves in Garfield County, just north of the Mesa County line.

CAM-Colorado would have to outbid competitors, if any, for the right to mine the site.

The BLM will host a public scoping meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Two Rivers Convention Center. The session is two weeks before the end of a public-comment period on the scope of the environmental impact statement.

There is no immediate schedule for the completion of the study or auction, the BLM said.

The agency had previously considered the environmental consequences of the mine, an associated railroad and other facilities on the surface. The previous proposal was for a smaller area, 11,600 acres.

It fell short, however, in that it failed to consider the possible effects of the mine on a proposed wilderness area in Hunter Canyon in the Bookcliffs, hydrology and air-quality concerns, and greenhouse gas concerns, the BLM said on its web page about the project.

The current study is limited to the possible lease of the coal and analysis of the mining plans “would be completed by the appropriate agency after the lessee submits a mine plan,” the BLM additionally said on its web page.

CAM officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

Under the previous proposal, officials had estimated the mine would have a 30-year lifespan and employ 200 to 250 people directly while generating 486 indirect jobs.

The new study comes on the heels of the loss of more than 200 jobs from the idling of the West Elk mine in the North Fork Valley.

In addition to attendance at the scoping meeting, residents can comment by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), by fax to 244-3085, or by regular mail to Grand Junction Field Office, 2815 H Road, Grand Junction 81506, Attention: Christina Stark.


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