BLM Logo
Release Date: 06/28/13
Contacts: Vanessa Lacayo, 303-239-3681    

BLM Approves Coal Exploration near Paonia (06-28-13)

MONTROSE, Colo. – On Friday, June 28, the Bureau of Land Management approved the Sunset Trail Area Coal Exploration Plan to conduct coal exploration activities 11 miles east of Paonia, Colo. The exploration plan, submitted by Ark Land Company on behalf of Mountain Coal Company, consists of drilling ten holes during 2013 and 2014 to collect core samples within their lease area (federal coal leases COC-1362 and COC-67232).
Current reserves at the West Elk Mine are estimated to last nine to 11 years. Exploration will provide additional data regarding the amount and quality of coal.  The data is used to determine whether any additional mineable reserves are in the lease modification areas within the federal coal lease boundaries.
The exploration area is southeast of the West Elk underground coal mine and requires access road upgrades requiring one to two weeks of construction prior to moving the drill rig on site. The construction, drilling and reclamation activities will take an average of 16 days per hole with each drill pad at a maximum disturbance of 0.46 acres. 
Currently, there are nine producing coal mines (seven underground and two surface operations) encompassing 75,000-acres in the state.  In Fiscal Year 2012, coal energy production on BLM Colorado public lands directly contributed $918.1 million to the economy, generating $57.7 million in royalties and 5,719 jobs in Colorado.  Approximately half of the coal royalties generated to the State of Colorado were produced by coal mined in the North Fork Valley.
To review the environmental documents associated with this decision, 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.

  2465 South Townsend Avenue      Montrose, CO 81401  

Last updated: 06-28-2013