The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said in a notice to be published in the July 17 Federal Register that Bridger Coal, which supplies surface- and deep-mined coal to the adjacent Jim Bridger power plant, wants to explore 3,838.6 acres of coal reserves.
The BLM notice asks if any party want to share coal exploration expenses and results with Bridger Coal. Considering that the Bridger Coal operation isn’t near any other mines, and that the only natural market for that coal is the Jim Bridger power plant, it is unlikely any party would step forward to share this exploration program.
Both Bridger Coal and the power plant are one third owned by Idaho Power and two thirds owned by PacifiCorp. The reserves to be explored are in Sweetwater County, Wyo. The applied-for coal exploration license is on public land east of the Jim Bridger power plant and coal mining operations. The purpose of the exploration program is to obtain structural and quality information of the coal.
Also, BLM’s Rock Springs, Wyo., Field Office in March released the environmental assessment, finding of no significant impact, and decision record authorizing Bridger Coal to expand a coal lease by 320 acres for underground mining. The additional 320 acres of BLM-administered land is in the checkerboard region of mixed public, private and state owned land. The modified lease is adjacent to the current Bridger permit boundary. The permit covers approximately 26,691 acres of land the company leases east of Sweetwater County Road 15, roughly 35 miles northeast of Rock Springs, Wyo. In addition to the federal lease modification request, the company is proposing to conduct underground coal mining on connecting private land.
The Jim Bridger surface mine had been supplying the majority of the coal requirements for the power plant over the past 38 years. The longwall-equipped underground mine began full production in 2007, at a rate of about 3.5 million tons per year, and is now providing the majority of the overall production, with the surface mine and coal from other sources in the region, mainly Black Butte Coal, supplementing the annual requirements to the power plant. The coal produced by underground mining methods replaces coal previously produced by surface mining methods, with no resulting change in total annual coal production.