Mining company undeterred by regulatory climate

The company hoping to mine coal from the Red Cliffs lease north of Loma remains interested in the project, even as the federal government eyes new emissions regulations for coal-fired power plants, the project manager said.

Even as things change quickly in the coal industry, Rhino Energy Partners is undiscouraged in the western Colorado project, “at least for now,” Corey Heaps said.

Heaps, the project manager for western operations for Rhino, discussed the Red Cliffs project and the coal industry before about 30 people on Wednesday at a Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce briefing.

The project, which was proposed in 2006, has been mired in environmental review, but there are signs that the process is moving, even if it now appears that an environmental impact study might be complete by the end of 2016 instead of in 2015, Heaps said.

“I’m more optimistic than I have been in the past,” Heaps said.

The company that gains the lease will have about three years in the permitting process before it can start mining, he said.

Rhino also operated McClane Canyon Mine in the Bookcliffs until it was closed down for lack of a customers. It had supplied coal to the now decommissioned and torn-down Cameo generating station in De Beque Canyon.

Rhino is seeking to have the Bureau of Land Management auction off the Red Cliffs deposit, which sits in Garfield County just over the Mesa County line. Other companies, however, could bid on the deposit.

The company is eying a roughly $300 million investment in the mine, along with employment of about 300, Heaps said.

Though the Obama administration has announced stringent new regulations, which are still in the proposal stage, the world still needs coal, especially in India and China, where millions still have no electricity.

“My hope is that when (the study and permitting period) comes to an end, there will be a market for that coal,” Heaps said.


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