BLM Logo
Release Date: 06/08/12
Contacts: Shannon Borders, 970-240-5399    

BLM seeks public input for the West Elk coal lease modifications

MONTROSE, Colo. – On Friday, June 8, the Bureau of Land Management posted a preliminary Environmental Assessment for public comment regarding coal lease modifications at the West Elk Mine to continue mining operations adjacent to the existing federal coal leases.

The West Elk Mine has been in operation since 1982 and produced about 6 million tons of coal in 2011. Currently, the mine employs 378 people, and the majority of these employees, as well as their families, live in communities in Delta County. Total direct economic benefits associated with the coal mines within the North Fork Valley exceed $60 million annually. 

West Elk Mine’s coal lease modification application consists of adding about 800 acres to lease COC-1362 and about 921 acres to lease COC-67232 in order to prevent the bypassing of about 10.1 million recoverable tons of federal coal.

The BLM in accordance with the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 and the Mineral Leasing Act for Acquired Lands of 1947 is responsible for the leasing decision analyzed in the EA. The coal lease modification surface area, however, includes National Forest System Lands managed by the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests. For coal lease modification applications involving the USFS, the BLM must submit the lease modification application to the Secretary of Agriculture for consent.

“The issuance of a lease modification is a commitment of the resource for potential exploration, mining, development and reclamation subject to further review and permitting actions by the state,” said Barb Sharrow, BLM Uncompahgre Field Manager.

The Proposed Action conforms to the overall guidance given in the Uncompahgre Basin Resource Management Plan. The RMP identifies federal coal lands that are suitable for further leasing consideration with stipulations or unsuitable for leasing. Additionally, the RMP identifies areas within the 83,334 acres of federal coal estate in Paonia/Somerset areas that would be suitable for further leasing consideration.

Gunnison County receives approximately $2 million annually in tax revenues as the result of the coal mining operations at the West Elk Mine. Delta County receives 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 County. 

When a coal leasing action is proposed, environmental analysis is required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The NEPA directs the BLM to consider how the Proposed Action may impact the lands and resources and identify alternatives within the NEPA process. To review the environmental assessment, go to

Written comments must be submitted by Monday, July 9, to the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office, Attn: Desty Dyer, 2465 S. Townsend Ave., Montrose, CO 81401, fax 970-240-5368 or Comments must include your complete name and address. When commenting, please include references to the Chapter Number, and, if possible, the page number. This will help us to specifically respond to your comment(s).

Public comments and information submitted, including the names, street addresses, and email addresses of persons who submit comments, will be available for public review and disclosure at the UFO during regular business hours (from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), Monday through Friday, except holidays. Respondents who wish to withhold their name and/or address from public review, and/or from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), must state this prominently at the beginning of their comments. Such requests will be honored to the extent allowed by law; however, there is no guarantee that the BLM will be able to honor the request. All submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, will be made available for public inspection in their entirety.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Last updated: 06-08-2012