BLM issues coal lease modifications at West Elk Mine in southwest Colorado

DENVER – Today the Bureau of Land Management issued two coal lease modifications totaling 1,721 acres at the West Elk Mine, located in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest in Gunnison County, Colo.

The West Elk Mine supports high paying jobs and valuable tax returns for residents of the local community. Employees of the mine earn more than $28.9 million in total pay and benefits annually, and in calendar year 2016, the mine brought in $8.4 million in federal royalties and paid $7.6 million in taxes. The BLM’s approval of the lease modifications will allow Mountain Coal Company, the operator of the mine, to access an additional 10.1 million tons of coal, extending the mine’s life and allowing the continued employment of its 222 employees for about three years. 

As the manager of the surface area, the U.S. Forest Service completed and approved an Environmental Impact Statement and final Record of Decision, signed Dec. 11, to modify the leases. The BLM was a cooperating agency on the Forest Service’s evaluation. The BLM is signing a Record of Decision that adopts the Forest Service’s analysis to allow Mountain Coal Company to access the mineral estate. You can find the document at

Currently, there are six producing coal mines covering 60,000 acres on public lands in Colorado. Federal coal produced in Colorado supports about 6,000 jobs and contributes about $42 million in federal royalties to the state of Colorado.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in the 11 Western states and Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals.

Release Date


BLM Colorado


Uncompahgre Field Office


Courtney Whiteman