The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) said Sept. 23 that it has extended the public comment period for an application by Signal Peak Energy LLC to amend its operating permit for the Bull Mountain Coal Mine # 1 in Roundup, Mont.
The comment period will now end on Sept. 30, instead of the prior Sept. 23.
Signal Peak submitted Permit Application No. 3 in October 2012. The company is proposing to increase the area of its mine permit for the underground coal mine by adding 7,161 acres and expanding the mine from five longwall panels to 14 longwall panels. The application includes approximately 20 acres of new surface disturbance and is a continuance of current mining activities.
The DEQ determined that the application was complete in December 2012 and acceptable on Sept. 3.
Signal Peak is the operator of Montana’s only active deep coal mine. The proposed plan includes room and pillar mining to develop nine additional panels for longwall mining. If approved, Amendment No. 3 would extend the permit boundary toward the northeast and increase the permit area by 7,161.4 acres for a total area of 14,896.4 acres. Total acreage of the underground mine plan would be 10,569.2 acres.
If approved, Amendment No. 3 would add about 175.9 million tons of in-place coal reserves or 110.1 million tons of mineable coal. Of this, around 83% would be recoverable (91.4 million tons of coal).
There has been a longtime goal to push the mine’s production to 10 million tons per year, or more, but with some initial problems a few years ago with geology and equipment configuration. U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data shows that the mine produced 4.3 million tons in the first half of this year (that would be 8.6 million tons on an annualized basis), 5.7 million tons in all of 2012 and 5.1 million tons in 2011.