The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service are seeking comments on a proposed coal lease that Bowie Resources LLC wants to add to the holdings at its Bowie No. 2 longwall mine in Colorado.
Bowie Resources applied for a federal competitive coal lease-by-application (LBA) on the 1,813-acre Spruce Stomp property, which is immediately adjacent to existing coal leases held by Bowie. The proposed lease covers approximately 1,359.9 acres of Forest Service land, 87.5 acres of BLM land and 365.6 acres of private surface with federal minerals. All of the coal mineral estate is administered by the BLM. The application area contains an estimated 9 million tons of recoverable coal, which is over two years of coal at the mine’s recently-upsurging production rate.
The BLM and FS said in a Jan. 16 scoping notice that they have determined that this action must be evaluated under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to identify potential environmental impacts related to the proposed action. It is anticipated that the environmental analysis will be documented in an Environmental Assessment (EA).
At the leasing stage, the federal agencies evaluate the effects of subsidence (i.e., the land surface lowered as a result of mining) and surface use on resources, and identify where surface resources may require specific protection from subsidence or foreseeable surface uses. Potential surface uses on the lease tract include methane drainage wells (MDWs) and associated access roads required to safely mine the coal resources. Because LBAs are competitive, and the lessee is not known at this time, specific locations of the MDWs and roads are not known at the leasing stage.
Oxbow Mining’s Elk Creek longwall mine is the only existing coal mine adjacent to Bowie No. 2, on Bowie No.2’s east side, while Oxbow also has lately been looking at leasing coal reserves west of Bowie No. 2 for a new mine. A BLM map shows that Spruce Stomp is just north of the westernmost permit area of Bowie No. 2, and west of a northward jut of that permit area.
Bowie Resources ran into geology problems in the northeast area of its reserves late last decade, which forced a sharp reduction in output and an eventual move to the more friendly southwest area of the mine. U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data shows that the mine produced 3.4 million tons in all of 2012, up sharply from 2.2 million tons in 2011 and 1.3 million tons in 2010. The mine’s yearly peak in the 2000-2012 period was 5.5 million tons in 2007, which was just before the geology problems started to happen.