Utah agency looks at air permit for new area of Alton Coal mine

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is out for comment until Oct. 31 on a draft air permit approval for Alton Coal Development LLC to continue mining activities on a 284-acre private lease area called the North Private Lease (NPL).

The NPL area is approximately 1.4 miles north of the existing Coal Hollow Mine (CHM) and will be included as part of the current mining operation at the CHM. The mining activities will consist of coal removal including extraction (open pit and highwall mining), loading and hauling the coal to the CHM via haul trucks, and dumping raw coal onto a stockpile (dumping activities are the same as current operations).

The CHM area will only operate the coal processing plant and underground mining operation at this location as surface mining activities are complete, the department said. The ACD mining operation, which includes the NPL and CHM areas, is located in Kane County near the town of Alton. Kane County is an attainment area of the NAAQS for all pollutants.

In other recent news for this mining operation:

  • On Sept. 10, a coalition of 13 conservation and public health organizations called on U.S. Bureau of Land Management to reject Alton Coal Development’s proposal to lease about 2,200 acres of public land for mining, said the Sierra Club. The Sept. 10 comment was on the supplemental draft environmental impact statement (SDEIS) that BLM prepared for the proposed Alton coal mine expansion.
  • The executive summary of the SDEIS issued by BLM in June said: “In November 2004, a lease by application (LBA) was filed by Alton Coal Development, LLC (ACD) to mine federal coal, using primarily surface-mining methods, near the town of Alton, Utah. … This application includes nearly 2,683 surface acres and approximately 38 million tons of recoverable coal. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reconfigured the tract to exclude approximately 40 acres and to include approximately 898 additional acres. Acreage added to the tract during tract reconfiguration was based on the identification of additional recoverable coal reserves not included in the original LBA and on additional surface acreage deemed necessary for mine operations. The Alton Coal Tract LBA (hereafter the Alton Coal Tract or tract), as reconfigured, contains approximately 3,581 surface acres and 44.9 million tons of recoverable coal reserves.”

There are two mines listed with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration under Alton Coal, which MSHA says is controlled by James Wayland.

  • The Coal Hollow surface mine was listed with MSHA in 2009, went into first production in 2013, and produced 555,268 tons in all of 2014 and 315,884 tons in the first three quarters of this year.
  • The Burton #1 deep mine was listed with MSHA in November 2014, and had a production start in the second quarter of this year, with a total of 1,554 tons produced in the second and third quarters of this year.

Notable is that MSHA’s control attributions for companies is simplistic. The much more detailed ownership and control database at the U.S. Office of Surface Mining shows Alton Coal as 49% owned by SH Coal Investment LLC, 8% owned by Robert Nead Jr. and 26% owned by James Wayland. No other parties are shown holding ownership shares. OSM data says that SH Coal Investment is 50-50 owned by Thomas Ungurean and Charles Ungurean, who are Ohio-based coal operators that in the past had founded Oxford Resource Partners.

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.