BLM takes comment on Deserado coal leasing

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management office in Colorado is seeking public comment on a preliminary Environmental Assessment looking at whether to offer 3,157 acres of federal coal reserves beneath BLM managed lands in Rio Blanco and Moffat counties, Colo., in a competitive coal lease sale.

Blue Mountain Energy has submitted a lease by application to BLM for this parcel adjacent to its Deserado deep mine, which is seven miles northeast of Rangely, Colo., and currently employs 164 people. The area being considered for lease is estimated to contain 21 million tons of saleable coal. The mine supplies coal via dedicated rail line to the Bonanza power plant in Utah of Blue Mountain Energy parent Deseret Power.

Blue Mountain Energy is the holder of seven federal coal leases and operates the underground longwall Deserado mine. The mine was permitted in 1981 and has been producing coal since 1983. As of January 2012, the mine has shipped more than 44 million tons of clean coal (coal in which the impurities inherent within the coal seam and introduced during mining are removed) to the Bonanza plant.

In 1985 the leases were formed into the Deserado mine Logical Mining Unit (LMU). A high capacity longwall was installed in December 1986. The Deserado mine is considered a captive mine since all coal produced is sold and shipped to its sole customer, the Bonanza plant. The coal is transported 37 miles from the mine to the power plant via electric train.

There are two mineable coal seams in the currently leased mine area, the D-Seam and the B-Seam. The upper seam is the D-Seam with an interburden that varies from 5 feet to 70 feet between the D and B-Seams. Recoverable D-Seam coal resources are only in the eastern and southeastern portion of the leased mine area and recoverable B-Seam coal resources are in the western and northern leased mine area.

Production of coal from the D-Seam ceased in November 1999 and the longwall moved into the B-Seam. Mining of the B-Seam continues and is progressing towards the northwest. Depositional geology of the D and B-Seams are complex with multiple partings and varying mineable coal split thickness, the EA noted. Partings in the coal seam are horizontal lenses of sandstone, clay, or shale with varying coal content that vertically divide the seam. These partings are typically mined as part of the coal seam depending on the thickness and coal content of the partings. Mined coal is processed through a coal prep plant where any rock or low coal content material is removed resulting in a clean coal product.

BLM will accept public comments on the draft EA through Oct. 5.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.