By January 15, 2016 Read More →

US coal lease suspension affects 30 plus mining projects

US coal lease suspension announced Friday

US coal lease suspension

The Obama administration announced its US coal lease suspension plan on Friday.  Energy Trends Insider photo.

BILLINGS, Mont. _ At least 30 applications from companies seeking to mine hundreds of millions of tons of coal face suspension as the government reviews sales of the fuel from public lands, government officials disclosed Friday.

The coal leasing program would be put on hold for up to three years while the Interior Department reviews fees paid by mining companies and the environmental effect of burning coal, Secretary Sally Jewell said.

The Associated Press obtained a Bureau of Land Management list of affected sites ahead of its public release, and it includes mining proposals in nine states.

Some of the largest projects are in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana, the nation’s top coal-producing region.

They include a 441 million ton expansion of Cloud Peak Energy’s Antelope mine in central Wyoming and a 203 million ton expansion of Lighthouse Resources’ Decker mine in southeastern Montana.

Even before the leasing program was suspended, mining at those sites was unlikely to begin for years because of the time it takes companies to navigate it.

Officials also revealed a list of 17 lease applications that could be allowed to proceed. The government already approved many of those applications but they were not in effect.

Roughly 40 per cent of the coal produced in the United States comes from federal lands. The vast majority comes from Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.

Cloud Peak Energy President Colin Marshall said he was disappointed in Friday’s announcement and accused federal officials of pandering to environmentalists who are trying to shut down the industry.

But Marshall added that the Gillette, Wyoming-based company does not expect an immediate effect to its operations and has a significant amount of coal reserves on non-federal lands, including on Montana’s Crow Indian Reservation.

The Canadian Press

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