The U.S. Office of Surface Mining intends to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the impacts of permitting the operation and reclamation of the proposed Area F expansion of the Rosebud strip coal mine in the Montana end of the Powder River Basin.
The project area is 12 miles west of Colstrip in Rosebud and Treasure counties. The surface of the permit area is entirely privately owned, and the subsurface minerals are either privately or federally held. Western Energy Co. (WECo), a subsidiary of Westmoreland Coal, operates the Rosebud mine, supplying coal to the adjacent Colstrip power plant of PPL Corp. and other plant co-owners.
WECo submitted a permit application to the state in October 2011 for Area F, a proposed expansion of the mine. The state Department of Environmental Quality determined that WECo’s revised application was administratively complete in August 2012 and began its review for technical adequacy, which is currently ongoing. Since this permit application involves Federal lands, OSM is involved, the agency noted in a notice to be published in the Aug. 27 Federal Register.
A single EIS that meets the requirements of both state and federal environmental laws and evaluates all components of the proposed project will be prepared. The Aug. 27 notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides the development of the EIS.
Rosebud is a 25,576-acre surface coal mine producing low-sulfur subbituminous coal. The proposed permit area for Area F would add 6,746 acres (4,287 acres would be disturbed by the mining operations, highwall reduction, soil storage, scoria pits, haul road construction, and other miscellaneous disturbances). If approved, Area F would add coal reserves to the existing Rosebud mine and extend mine life by an estimated 19 years.
Beginning in 2015, WECo proposes to mine 2,164 acres within the proposed 6,746-acre Area F permit area and would complete mining operations by 2034. During the first 12 years of production, 4 million tons of coal would be mined annually, with the rate dropping to 3.25 million tons annually during the last seven years of production.
The coal would be transported on an established haul road to permit Area C for crushing. From there, under WECo’s contract with PPL Electric Utilities Corp., most of the coal would be sent via the existing 4.2-mile conveyor to the Colstrip station. Coal with higher sulfur content (an estimated 105,000 tons/year) would be trucked to the Rosebud power plant. WECo does not propose to ship any coal from Area F by rail.
U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data shows that the Rosebud mine produced 4.7 million tons in the first half of this year and 8 million tons in all of 2012.