Oxbow Mining announced on Dec. 2 that it would idle its Elk Creek Mine. The decision will halt mining operations at the underground coal mine and will result in lay offs for 115 workers, however, the methane gases from the mine will continue to power the nearby Aspen skiing resort, the Denver Post reported.
Aspen Skiing’s one-of-a-kind methane harvesting project – which converts waste methane at the Elk Creek Mine in Somerset into electricity will continue to operate despite news that Oxbow Mining will idle what was once the country’s most productive coal mine.
“The project was designed to run after the mine closes, so not a problem,” said Auden Schendler, Aspen Skiing’s environmental guru who hatched the plan to harvest methane from the mine and convert it into 24 million kw hours of power, enough to power all of the company’s four ski areas, 13 restaurants and three hotels.
The project – developed by Denver-based Vessels Coal Gas – launched in 2013 and united the unlikely partners of Oxbow Mining with Aspen Skiing, an international leader in environmentally focused operations. The partnership – funded by Aspen Skiing’s $5.4 million investment – was heralded as the first large-scale methane harvesting project of its kind and elevated an international model for converting methane into power.
“We are not connected with the mine operations,” Schendler said, noting that methane still is vented from the mine cavity regardless of coal production operations. “Bottom line is that we are independent of the mine. We’re sorry for the job losses Oxbow is experiencing but we’re glad that our project is still running.”