BLM takes comment on environmental review of Deseret coal leasing

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has put out for comment an environmental assessment on a coal tract in Colorado that the Blue Mountain Energy unit of Deseret Power Electric Cooperative wants to lease for its adjacent Deserado longwall mine.

Coal from the Deserado mine is shipped via a dedicated rail line to Deseret’s Bonanza power plant in Utah.

BLM’s Colorado State Office will hold a Nov. 28 public hearing at a BLM office in Meeker, Colo., to receive comments on the EA, Fair Market Value and Maximum Economic Recovery of these coal resources. Written comments are being taken until Nov. 20.

The 3,155 acres of federal coal resources to be leased are located in Moffatt and Rio Blanco counties, Colo. Two alternatives are addressed in the EA:

  • Alternative 1: (Proposed Action)-The tracts would be leased as requested in the application; and
  • Alternative 2: (No Action)-The application would be rejected or denied and the federal coal reserves would be bypassed during the normal course of mining on existing reserves the company has in hand.

Blue Mountain Energy is currently the holder of seven federal coal leases. The Deserado mine was permitted in 1981 and has been producing coal since 1983, the preliminary EA said. As of January 2012, the mine has shipped more than 44 million tons of clean coal to the Bonanza plant. 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, Bonanza. 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 inter-burden 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 was 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, BLM said.

The Deserado mine’s maximum predicted subsidence above the longwall panels in the B-Seam is seven feet. Subsidence monitoring above a previously mined longwall panel in the D-Seam showed subsidence to be less than predicted with a limit effect of subsidence 200 feet outside the longwall mine panel boundaries. Mining of longwall panels has already occurred beneath approximately three miles of Rio Blanco County Road 65 and portions of Rio Blanco County Road 96. Subsidence from longwall mining has not interfered with the use of the roads.

The Deserado mine currently employs approximately 164 people and produces 2.2 million to 2.5 million raw tons per year and delivers on average about 2 million clean tons annually to the Bonanza plant. Blue Mountain Energy holds two exploration license which overlie the applied-for lease area. Exploration drilling in the fall of 2010 and fall of 2011 identified additional acres of mineable coal resources and the lease application was modified to include this area. Based on current mine plans, longwall development entries into this new lease area could occur in 2012. The B-Seam and D-Seam leased coal resources have been mined out to the south of the lease tract near the coal outcrop.

The configuration of this new lease area is governed by the existing leases and geology of the area. “The southern, western, and eastern tract boundaries adjoin existing coal leases of the Deserado Mine,” the preliminary EA said. “In the northwest and northeast the tract may be bounded by where the coal seam thins and rock parting thickness increases greatly. The northern LBA boundary roughly coincides with the structural mining limit of the B-Seam deposit, where the coal seam and encompassing rocks dip upward steeply along the northern flank of the Red Wash Syncline. Coal seam splitting and thinning may also occur in this area. Due to the variability of coal seam parting, splits and thickness, the exact length and mining extent of the eastern longwall panels may vary. Additional future exploration drilling would better delineate the coal and parting thicknesses in this area and define the lengths of the eastern longwall panels.”

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.