Bowie eyes addition to coal reserves near Paonia
A coal mine five miles northeast of Paonia is hoping to lease nearly 1,800 acres adjacent to its existing operations to expand its reserves.
The Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comments and planning a public meeting on the proposal by Bowie Resources, LLC, owner of the Bowie No. 2 Mine. It involves land in what’s known as the Spruce Stomp area north of existing Bowie coal leases.
The area includes about 1,330 acres of national forest land and 370 acres of private land, with the remainder being BLM property. If the BLM and U.S. Forest Service agree to the proposal, the acreage would be subject to a competitive lease process.
The area is estimated to contain about 8 million tons of coal, which is equivalent to about 16 to 18 months of coal reserves based on the Bowie No. 2 Mine’s current production rate.
A preliminary environmental assessment and related documents may be found at on.doi.gov/1d3dOgN, and a proposal summary and map are available at the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office in Montrose. Public comments are being accepted on the environmental assessment through Aug. 2.
The BLM also will hold a public meeting on the proposal at 6 p.m. July 18 at Paonia Town Hall, 214 Grand Ave.
The Bowie II Mine employs about 300 people. The BLM cites state data showing coal mine job pay in Delta County averages almost $70,000 a year, more than twice the county’s average wage for other jobs.
Last year, the BLM approved a proposal to modify two existing Bowie leases to prevent bypassing about 3.25 million tons of coal.
Should the mine get the Spruce Stomp lease, it is assumed the coal would be recovered from its existing underground workings and surface facilities, via longwall mining. However, the new lease area also would likely require drilling of 35 methane venting wells from 25 one-acre surface pads, requiring four miles of temporary roads.
There are no roadless areas, wilderness areas or lands with wilderness characteristics in the proposed lease area, the BLM says.
Denver-based Vessels Coal Gas Inc. recently built an electric generation and enclosed flare project to handle methane emissions from Oxbow Mining’s Elk Creek Coal Mine in Somerset. But the BLM says Vessels has indicated that project benefited from a power purchase agreement with Holy Cross Energy, and from a carbon offset contract with Xcel Energy for flaring that greatly reduces methane’s impact as a greenhouse gas. Those deals were negotiated before a recent fall in carbon offset prices.