Alaska agency works on air permit for massive PacRim coal mine project

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) has made a preliminary decision to approve PacRim Coal LP’s application for an Air Quality Control Minor Permit for the Chuitna Coal Project, and is taking public comment until June 1 on that decision.

PacRim LP, through years of stops and starts, has slowly been working toward government approvals on this major strip mine project, designed to produce coal for the Pacific Rim export market. Usibelli Coal Mine Inc. has for many years been Alaska’s only coal producer, which would change when this project is developed.

PacRim plans to develop and operate a surface coal mine, coal handling system (preparation plant), and coal export facility in the Beluga Coal Field region of south central Alaska, approximately 45 miles west of Anchorage. The project consists of a surface coal mining operation, coal crushing/handling (preparation) facilities, and an eight-mile elevated overland conveyor to a coal export and storage facility on the west coast of Cook Inlet.

The surface coal mine will utilize both truck/shovel and dragline mining methods for excavation. The life-of-mine (LOM) is projected to be approximately 25 years of active coal production, and time for initial infrastructure development and final mine closure and reclamation. Maximum annual coal production is projected to be 14 million tons, which is far more than Usibelli alone produces.

The coal mining operation will include air emission units associated with coal preparation and processing, natural gas-fired boilers, and associated with surface coal mining.

The Chuitna mining method will incorporate a design to allow for optimal equipment utilization and coal recovery to accomplish a continuous pattern for topsoil removal through reclamation while ensuring environmental protection. In this design, topsoil and overburden are removed with dozers, trucks/shovels, or scrapers. Next, the coal is blasted and loaded by shovel onto trucks for haulage to the truck dump and hopper, where it enters the crusher. An elevated overland conveyor will then transport the crushed coal about eight miles to the Ladd Coal Export Terminal facilities. At Ladd Landing, the coal will either be stored in stockpiles for later reclaiming/load-out, or continue on additional conveyors to a two-mile long elevated conveyor to the ship loader.

Personnel housing and an airstrip near the mine are part of the mine plan. Gas-fired boilers will provide hot water heat to the housing area, mine facilities, Ladd Landing buildings, and at the ship-loading berth. A high-voltage power line will provide electric power to the site from the existing Beluga Power Station. The main elements of the coal processing plant are a coal truck dumping hopper, the crushing plant, coal conveyors, coal transfer, coal stockpiles, and coal load-out.

Alaska corporate records show Pac-Rim Coal LP as controlled by Pac-Rim Coal-GP LLC, which has as its members William Herbert Hunt of Texas and Alaska Coal LP. W.H. Hunt is a billionaire with a long-standing family involvement in the oil industry. The corporate records show Alaska Coal as being associated with Douglas H. Hunt. The website of privately-held oil exploration company Petro-Hunt LLC shows both Hunts as involved with that company and says about Douglas H. Hunt: “Doug Hunt is presently Director of Acquisitions of Petro-Hunt. He graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science Degree. In addition to his activity in the oil and gas area, he is also responsible for the company’s coal investments. He currently serves as a Director of Arch Coal, Inc. (NYSE:ACI).”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.