Coal Exploration Licenses

A coal exploration license is one of the first steps a company may take to pursue coal development on public lands. An approved license allows a company to explore federal coal deposits to obtain geological and other pertinent data on the area they are interested in developing. A license expires after two years from being approved. The company may remove as much coal as is needed to determine the coal quality and quantity, though typically small drill core samples are sufficient and require very little surface disturbance to collect. Before a license is issued, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance and planning must be completed.
Per regulation, the BLM is required to publish a notice in the Federal Register on behalf of the applicant to invite other parties to participate in the exploration process. Parties are to share costs and data, which could lead to more competition in the leasing process. The data will also help the BLM to determine the fair market value of the coal, if the tracts are ultimately leased for coal development. Exploration activities may or may not result in a request to the BLM to lease the coal.

Depending on the land use and coal leasing status of the lands you would like to explore, there are three ways by which you can explore for Federal coal:

  1. On lands that are open for coal exploration and where the coal resource are not already leased, you must have an exploration license from the BLM. 
  2. On lands where you already have a Federal coal lease, but where no permit to mine has been issued, you need to have an exploration plan approved by the BLM. 
  3. On lands where you already have a Federal coal lease and a permit to mine.

An applicant should be aware that all data obtained from an exploration program must be provided to the BLM.  Generally, the BLM does not make exploration data available to the public.  However, the law provides that exploration data can only remain proprietary until a lease is issued for the area, or as determined by BLM.