Mine’s coal-lease effort advances
The Bureau of Land Management has preliminarily determined that leasing 3,157 acres of additional federal coal reserves to the owner of the Deserado Mine northeast of Rangely would result in no significant environmental impact.
The finding is based on a newly released draft environmental assessment. If the same determination is issued in final form it would mean a more involved environmental impact statement on the proposal is not required.
Blue Mountain Energy Inc., operator of the Deserado Mine, wants to mine an area estimated to contain about 21 million tons of saleable coal, the BLM says. The area is on the Rio Blanco-Moffat county line.
The mine employs 164 people and ships its coal to the Bonanza Power Plant in Utah. Since 1983, it has sent more than 44 million tons of coal to the plant. It produces about 2 million tons a year for the plant.
Blue Mountain Energy currently holds seven federal coal leases.
The environmental assessment assumes that Deserado would end up with the coal lease as a logical extension to its existing mining operation. However, the lease would be offered through a competitive auction, and the BLM would reject any bids that fall below a confidential, fair-market value it establishes.
The BLM says the coal in the acreage in question “would be bypassed if not leased due to isolated location and geologic conditions.”
The mining would occur underground, and the BLM estimates surface impacts would be limited to about 56 acres of BLM land for things such as temporary drill pads for methane venting wells and associated light-use roads.
The environmental group WildEarth Guardians has been pressing the BLM to require coal mines to either capture methane associated with coal mining and use it for power generation, or at least flare what is considered a potent greenhouse gas rather than simply venting it. But the BLM said methane capture at the proposed lease area isn’t practical in part because of the relatively low volume in the coal to be mined, and added that there continue to be concerns that flaring could spark an explosion in the mine.