The Montana Department of Environmental Quality on Sept. 30 approved an application from Spring Creek Coal LLC to increase the permitted production limit at its surface coal mine from 24 million tons per year, to 30 million tons per year.
The department’s decision may be appealed to the Board of Environmental Review by Oct. 15. This permit will become final on Oct. 16 unless the board orders a stay on the permit.
“On September 11, 2013, Spring Creek submitted an initial application for modification of MAQP 1120-11 proposing an expansion of mining operations to increase maximum allowable coal production from the current level of 24 million tons per year to 30 million tons,” the department said in a Sept. 30 approval letter. “The current permit action provides for the increase in coal production and incorporates a single de minimis change.”
Spring Creek Coal is a unit of Cloud Peak Energy (NYSE: CLD) and this mine is located in the Powder River Basin. Cloud Peak, due in part to the relative proximity of this mine to West Coast export terminals compared to mines in the Wyoming end of the PRB, has seen in recent years increased demand for the Spring Creek coal on the export market. U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data shows that Spring Creek produced 7.7 million tons in the first half of this year and 17.7 million tons in all of 2013.