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Release Date: 03/16/12
Contacts: Shannon Borders, 970-240-5399    

BLM decision allows Oxbow’s Elk Creek Coal Mine operations to continue (03-16-12)

MONTROSE, Colo. – On Friday, Mar. 16, the Bureau of Land Management approved a coal lease modification for Oxbow’s Elk Creek Mine allowing the continuation of mining operations adjacent to the existing federal coal lease. The mine employs 325 people.

The Oxbow Mining, LLC (Elk Creek Mine’s parent company) application consisted of adding about 159 acres to lease COC-61357 in order to prevent the bypassing of about 555,000 recoverable tons of federal coal.

“The modification provides a logical extension of Oxbow’s D-Seam workings within the current Elk Creek Mine. It also allows the mine to continue producing coal at the current rate, instead of ceasing production as recoverable leased coal reserves are exhausted,” said Barbara Sharrow, BLM Uncompahgre Field manager.

The BLM Uncompahgre Field Office in accordance with the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, the Mineral Leasing Act for Acquired Lands of 1947 and the Uncompahgre Basin Resource Management Plan was responsible for analyzing the leasing proposal through the National Environmental Policy Act. 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 multiple agencies, the BLM must obtain consent from the surface agency.  The Secretary of Agriculture gave consent for this project.

The Oxbow Elk Creek Mine has been in operation since 2002 and produced about three million tons of coal in 2011. Currently, the majority of the mine’s employees, as well as their families, live in communities in Delta County although the mine is located in Gunnison County.  Total direct economic benefits associated with mines within the North Fork Valley exceed $60 million annually.

Gunnison County receives about $1.1 million annually in tax revenues as the result of the coal mining operations.  Additionally, mining companies are the largest property tax revenue sources for Gunnison County.

To review the decision record and environmental documentation, go to

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.

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Last updated: 03-16-2012