U.S. Department of the Interior

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Gretchen Pinkham

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West Elk Mine Mining Plan Modification

About the Project

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), Western Region Office, is announcing preparation of an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the mining plan modification related to Federal coal lease modifications COC-1362 and COC-67232 at the West Elk Mine. The West Elk Mine is located in Gunnison County, CO. The West Elk Mine is owned and operated by Mountain Coal Company (MCC).

The OSMRE received notice from Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (CDRMS) that the West Elk Mine, Permit Revision 15 (PR 15), Permit Application Package (PAP) was administratively complete on April 5, 2018. OSMRE determined that the mining plan modification included in PR 15 would require a mining plan decision document (MPDD) on May 30, 2018.

The two federal coal lease modifications included in PR 15, COC-1362 & COC-67232, were analyzed in the 2017 U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement (SFEIS) for Federal Coal Lease Modifications COC-1362 and COC-67232 (including on-lease exploration plan). OSMRE participated as a cooperating agency in the preparation of the SFEIS.

OSMRE adopted the SFEIS and issued a Record of Decision (ROD) on March 15, 2019. The Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management (ASLM) previously approved the MPDD on April 19, 2019. On July 2, 2019, WildEarth Guardians, High Country Conservation Advocates, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and Wilderness Workshop sued DOI for recommending and approving the mining plan modification and on November 8, 2019 the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado remanded the ROD back to OSMRE for further consideration of methane flaring and impacts to water and fish from the mining plan modification. The court also vacated OSMRE’s recommendation to the ASLM and the ASLM’s MPDD and enjoined operations at the mine related to that decision until OSMRE completes the additional analysis. See WildEarth Guardians et al. v. Bernhardt et al., Case No. 1:19-cv-01920 (Dist. Colo.). Based on this decision, OSMRE is preparing an EA to further analyze the project.

OSMRE is soliciting public comments on the EA. You are invited to direct these comments to:
ATTN: West Elk EA
C/O: Gretchen Pinkham,
OSMRE Western Region
P.O. Box 25065
Lakewood, CO 80225-0065

Comments may also be emailed to:, ensure the subject line reads: ATTN: OSMRE, West Elk EA. Comments should be received or postmarked no later than December 23, 2019 to be considered during the preparation of the EA. Comments received, including names and addresses of those who comment, will be considered part of the public record for this project and will be available for public inspection.

In accordance with the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 (MLA), the ASLM must approve the mining plan before any mining and reclamation can occur on lands containing leased federal coal. OSMRE will prepare and submit to the ASLM a mining plan decision document recommending approval, disapproval, or conditional approval of the mining plan. The ASLM will approve, disapprove, or conditionally approve the MPDD as required under the MLA.

Page Last Modified/Reviewed: 6/22/20

Western Region OSMRE, PO Box 25065, Lakewood, CO 80225-0065
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