Redstone mine idea fades as region tries to put coal in the past

An unnamed entity has backed away from the idea of opening a new coal mine west of Redstone in Pitkin County.

The decision followed local concerns about revived coal mining in an area of significant cleanup efforts after past mining.

Grand Junction-based Raven Ridge Resources, an energy consulting company, had represented the entity in initial conversations with the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM said early last year that Raven Ridge was interested in doing some exploratory work to assess the resource on behalf of another party.

“That never took off,” James Marshall of Raven Ridge said recently. “A client we were working for sort of stepped back and never moved on that.”

Marshall said, “I think there were too many adversaries. … It was too much in the news for the wrong reasons.”

The entity’s interest caught many Redstone residents and the U.S. Forest Service off guard. Although the BLM administers underground federal mineral resources, the Forest Service manages much of the land in Coal Basin.

Coal mining in the basin dates intermittently to 1900, with Redstone itself being built to house miners. But the area’s colorful history includes a dark chapter beginning with Mid-Continent Resources’ shutdown of its mine in 1991 and the loss of a lot of high-paying jobs. Subsequent demolition and reclamation work took many years and cost millions of dollars, and the state ended up having to cover some of the cost because the bankrupt company’s bonding came up short.

The Forest Service acquired the mine property in a land exchange and has been involved in efforts to start doing more reclamation work there to improve habitat and water quality.

Marshall said the new mine idea hit resistance in the Carbondale/Aspen region, where people are very environmentally conscious and there’s a “not-in-my-backyard sort of approach to things.”

But he also acknowledged that Mid-Continent “kind of left the place in a mess. The whole reclaiming the area was a long, laborious process. They’re just now getting it to where it was pre-mining. They don’t want anybody back in there again.”

Marshall said the client’s rethinking of the idea “was probably a wise thing.”

He said it would have been very expensive to assess the remaining coal and do other pre-mining work, and coal prices also have been in a downturn.

“And it was gassy as heck,” he said of the Coal Basin coal.

He was referring to high methane levels Mid-Continent had to deal with.

Methane explosions in the mine killed 15 miners in 1981 and nine in 1965.


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