OSMRE issues updated enviro review of new coal reserve for Skyline mine in Utah

The U.S. Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement (OSMRE) is taking comment until July 28 on a draft environmental assessment (EA) and an unsigned Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on a Skyline Mine Flat Canyon Coal Lease Tract Mining Plan Modification proposal.

Canyon Fuel Co. has operated the Skyline Mine since 1981 under a Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining permit. Skyline is an underground coal mine located near Helper, Utah. The Flat Canyon Federal Coal Lease Tract UTU-77114 is in Sanpete County. Private coal resources located in Sanpete and Emery counties are directly adjacent to the Flat Canyon Federal Coal Lease Tract and would be mined via access through the lease.

The Utah DOGM is reviewing Skyline Mine’s permit Amendment Task ID #5017, and will submit the Canyon Fuel permit application package (PAP) for the mining plan modification to the OSMRE for review, in accordance with its responsibilities under the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). The U.S. Forest Service, Manti-La Sal National Forest, and the BLM Utah State Office, with OSMRE as a cooperating agency, completed a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) reviewing the impacts of the federal coal leasing action. The BLM also signed a Record of Decision (ROD) to offer the lease for sale, and the Forest Service issued a ROD in 2002 consenting to the leasing action proposed by the BLM.

Canyon Fuel subsequently requested that the sale of the lease be delayed and the lease was auctioned in July 2015. Because the environmental review was more than 10 years old, the Manti-La Sal National Forest reviewed the project and completed a supplemental information report (SIR), which identified the changed conditions and confirmed the Forest Service consent to lease decision. The Forest Service issued a consent letter in February 2015. The BLM also completed a Determination of NEPA Adequacy, confirming the 2002 NEPA decision.

The OSMRE is required to evaluate the PAP before Canyon Fuel may conduct underground mining and reclamation operations to develop the Flat Canyon Federal Coal Lease Tract. In conducting the EA now out for comment, the OSMRE reviewed the environmental impacts of the proposed action (approving a mining plan modification that would authorize mining activities to produce up to 8 million tons per year of coal from the Flat Canyon Federal Coal Lease Tract) and the no action (disapprove the mining plan modification). 

Mining methods at Skyline include continuous miner and longwall panel extraction. Longwall panels are generally more than 2,500 feet long, although they vary depending on physical and economic factors. The minimum thickness is six feet. Continuous miners are used in the room and pillar method, where pillars remain permanently to avoid subsidence. The majority of coal is conveyed to the unit train loadout then shipped via rail.

The proposed action under the EA would authorize Canyon Fuel to expand mine operations west from the current mining operations into approximately 2,692 acres of federal coal reserves and to access another 1,100 acres of private coal. Typical depths of cover from the minable coal seam to the surface range from 900 feet to 2,300 feet. The proposed action would produce a probable maximum of 42 million tons of coal and extend the life of the Skyline Mine by approximately 9 to 12 years. DOGM has not set a maximum number of tons Skyline Mine can produce annually; however, the current air quality permit at Skyline Mine limits the mine to a maximum of 8 million tons per year. Over the last six years, Skyline Mine produced 1.9 to 4.2 million tons of coal a year. In the future, Skyline anticipates mining 3 to 4.5 million tons of coal per year.

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.