Environmental council approves first major coal mine in Wyoming in decades
The first major coal mine in Wyoming in decades received approval to proceed from the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council which voted unanimously to allow Ramaco to go ahead with its Brook Mine project despite the Big Horn Coal Company’s objections.
Ramaco, which announced planed for new coal mines in Virginia and West Virginia earlier this years, hopes to begin digging a few miles north of Sheridan by early next year, chief executive officer Randall Atkins said.
“We’re very pleased that the EQC agreed with our conclusion there were not any substantial damages to the surface owners,” Atkins said. “We look forward to moving expeditiously with the balance of the permitting process and to beginning our project.”
The Associated Press reported that Ramaco also faced opposition from the Padlock Ranch which owns about 1,400 acres of the land Ramaco intends to mine on, but the two sides reached an agreement, Ramaco said.
In Wyoming and other Western states, mineral rights can be owned separately from the surface of the ground. That sometimes leads to conflicts between the oil and gas industry and landowners who don’t want petroleum development on their property.
Within the boundaries of the Brook Mine area, Padlock Ranch owns 1,400 acres and Big Horn Mining Company 1,100 acres of surface land. The mine would keep cattle away from the Tongue River and likely destroy a livestock watering system, attorneys for the ranch told the commission in a March 16 letter.
The mine would restrict access and use of facilities, including a bridge and rail spur, should Big Horn Mining Company also decide to mine coal in the area, an attorney for the company wrote the commission April 20.
Ultimately council members weren’t convinced the mine would substantially prohibit Big Horn Coal’s operations, as would have been required to deny the order in lieu of consent.
“I do not believe there will be an impact, substantial or otherwise, to Big Horn Coal,” council member Tim Flitner said.
A lawsuit Ramaco filed against Big Horn Coal in state court remains pending. Proceedings were suspended pending the outcome of the council’s decision. Atkins said he planned to confer with Ramaco attorneys about what happens next with the lawsuit.