The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is out for comment until March 19 on a draft environmental assessment and unsigned Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) covering the permitting of new area for the Freedom lignite coal mine in North Dakota.
OSMRE has prepared the environmental assessment (EA) to evaluate the environmental effects of the proposed mining plan modification for the West Mine Area at the Freedom Mine. OSMRE is responsible for reviewing plans to conduct coal mining and reclamation operations on lands containing leased federal coal. This prospective action would authorize mining activities on 960 acres of federal coal lease NDM 91535 within the existing, state-approved mine permit boundary. The Freedom Mine is located approximately 10 miles north of Beulah in Mercer County, North Dakota.
The 960 federal acres include 25.6 million tons (mt) of federal coal. The Freedom Mine uses a combination of dragline and truck shovel mining methods. The average production rate is approximately 13.5 million tons per year (mtpy) and the maximum production rate is 16 mtpy. The current production rate at the mine is approximately 14.5 mtpy. The Freedom Mine started operation in 1983 and the life of mine will continue operation until 2045. This mining plan modification will not extend the life of the mine, the agency noted.
The Coteau Properties Co., a subsidiary of the North American Coal Corp., owns and operates the Freedom Mine. This coal is sold to Dakota Coal Co., a subsidiary of Basin Electric Power Cooperative (BEPC), and is used by: the adjacent Dakota Gasification Co.’s Great Plains Synfuels Plant (DGC), which gasifies coal; the adjacent Antelope Valley Station (AVS) coal-fired power plant; and is also hauled by rail approximately 30 miles to the Leland Olds Station (LOS) coal-fired power plant, near Stanton, North Dakota.