The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration on April 2 approved an easement that will help Sevier County build a long-planned new road that would shorten the distance that Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI) has to truck coal from its Sufco longwall mine.
“The applicant has requested a non-exclusive easement to construct, operate, repair, and maintain a new access road,” said a SITLA summation of several actions taken on April 2. “The road project is known as the Quitchupah Creek Road, and will connect Sevier County Road #10 with State Highway 10. The road would facilitate more efficient transportation of mineral and natural resources, and would facilitate access to public lands located in the area. The entire roadway is approximately 11.5 miles long, with a very small portion located on trust land. The proposed easement corridor is approximately 101.52 feet long and 120 feet wide, containing 0.28 acre.”
Sevier County had applied for this easement in February 2007. The application was then placed on hold as the county revised the project and pursued funding.
Arch described Sufco, Utah’s largest coal mine, this way in its Feb. 29 annual Form 10-K report: “Sufco is an underground mining complex located on approximately 25,700 acres in Sevier County, Utah. The Sufco mining complex extracts steam coal from the Upper Hiawatha seam. We control a significant portion of the coal reserves through federal and state leases. The Sufco mining complex had approximately 48.6 million tons of proven and probable reserves at December 31, 2011. The coal seam currently being mined could sustain current production levels through 2020, at which point a new coal seam will have to be accessed in order to continue mining.”
The Sufco complex currently consists of a longwall, three continuous miner sections and a rail loadout facility located about 80 miles from the mine. “We ship all of the coal raw to our customers via the Union Pacific railroad or by highway trucks,” the Form 10-K added. “Processing at the mine site consists of crushing and sizing. The rail loadout facility is capable of loading an 11,000-ton train in less than three hours.”
A report issued in 2006 on the Utah coal industry by the state Geological Survey said about the road project: “A Final Environmental Impact Statement was released in January of 2006, and a Record of Decision by both the [U.S. Bureau of Land Management] and the Forest Service was announced in March of 2006. Both agencies chose ‘Alternative D’, the Water Hollow Road Alignment, which generally follows an existing road in Convulsion Canyon for 2.1 miles where it crosses Quitchupah Creek and then continues for approximately half a mile to the Fishlake National Forest boundary and on to State Route 10. The Forest Service decision was appealed but upheld in court.”
A Feb. 14 article in a local newspaper, the Emery County Progress, said that Nielson Construction was preparing to start road construction in April. “The 11 mile Quitchupah Creek Road construction project linking State Route 10 to SUFCO Mine in Sevier County will be a huge undertaking and has the men and women of the Huntington-based construction company excited for the challenges that will come with blazing a trail through rugged terrain,” said the article.
The project was conceived more than a decade ago as a shorter route for coal truck traffic from Sufco to access the power plants in Emery County, the article noted. PacifiCorp‘s Hunter and Huntington power plants are both in Emery County. Coal trucks currently travel along Acord Lakes Road, down Interstate 70 and then up SR-10 to the power plants. The Quitchupah Creek Road will cut the distance traveled by nearly 50 miles each way for the coal trucks, as well as for many of the coal miners who live in the Emery and Carbon county areas. The road will be open to the public, as well. The $25.2m project is scheduled to begin in April with a completion date set for August 2013, the newspaper article noted.
The majority of the Hunter and a portion of the Huntington coal requirements are supplied by Arch’s Sufco and Dugout Canyon longwall mines under the company’s long-term coal agreement with Arch Coal Sales, PacifiCorp fuels official Cindy Crane reported in February rate testimony filed at the Utah Public Service Commission.