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Release Date: 03/30/12
Contacts: Shannon Borders, Public Affairs Specialist, 970-240-5399    
  Vanessa Delgado, Public Affairs Specialist, 303-239-3681    

Decision to Mine Federal Coal in North Fork Valley Upheld in Court (03-28-12)

Denver – Today, the Interior Board of Land Appeals upheld the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to lease coal seams containing 786 acres of federal coal for development in the Elk Creek Mine near Somerset, Colo.

The BLM issued a Decision Record in June of last year to hold a lease sale for the coal in response to an application submitted by Oxbow Mining LLC. The BLM’s decision was challenged by WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club. The IBLA affirmed the BLM’s decision and adequacy of the BLM’s National Environmental Policy Act analysis.

The BLM estimates there is 3.96 million tons of recoverable federal coal tied to this tract, which would result in $6.3 million in royalties (half of which would be returned to the State of Colorado). 

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. The mine is located in Gunnison County, which receives about $1.1 million annually in tax revenues from coal mining operations.  Three active mines currently exist in the North Fork – all mining public federal coal.

The mining companies are the largest property tax revenue sources for Gunnison County. Total direct economic benefits associated with mines in the North Fork Valley exceed $60 million annually.

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: 03-30-2012