BLM seeks comments for coal lease modification near Hesperus

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The Bureau of Land Management’s Tres Rios Field Office is seeking comments on a proposed federal coal lease modification on public lands near Hesperus. GCC Energy, LLC submitted an application to modify their existing federal coal lease (COC 62920) to include an additional 952 acres. The surface estate is privately owned, and the BLM manages the mineral estate.

“This application was submitted to obtain known mineable federal coal reserves and prevent those reserves from being bypassed,” said Helen Mary Johnson, BLM geologist. “If the lease modification is issued, it would extend underground development allowing more efficient recovery of federal coal from the existing lease and recovery from the applied-for tracts.”

The BLM is required by law to consider leasing federal coal for economic recovery. If approved under the National Environmental Policy Act analysis, the modification would be offered by non-competitive sale with appropriate lease stipulations to protect the surface resources.

The additional federal coal recovery would extend the life of the current mine by about nine years. A detailed description of the proposed project, including maps, is available at http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Information/nepa/TRFO_NEPA.html.

The King II coal mine has been in operation since 2007 and produced about 618,000 tons of coal in 2011. Currently, the mine employs 107 people directly and about 110 subcontractors. The majority of these employees, as well as their families, live in communities in La Plata and Montezuma counties in Colorado and San Juan County, New Mexico. GCC Energy also operates a coal truck to a rail loadout facility in McKinley County, N.M. Total direct economic benefits associated with the coal mine exceed $25 million annually, consisting of $8.5 million in wages, $13 million in transfer freight and $3.4 million to local vendors.

La Plata County receives approximately $475,000 annually in tax revenues as the result of the coal mining operations at the King II mine. La Plata and Montezuma County and San Juan and McKinley County, N.M. receive the indirect financial benefit and tax revenue from the indirect businesses that support the mine, and the tax base from the workers and their families, that reside in the area.

Public comments will assist the interdisciplinary team in identifying issues that should be addressed as part of the environmental assessment for this project. Written comments may be submitted by mail, email or fax no later than Monday, Dec. 24. Comments should be sent to the BLM, Tres Rios Field Office, Attn: Helen Mary Johnson, 15 Burnett Court, Durango, CO 81301, coalcommenttresrios@blm.gov or 970-375-2338.