About the Project
In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) in conjunction with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MT DEQ) (pursuant to the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA)), will document the analysis and disclose the environmental impacts of the proposed action to permit the operation and reclamation of the proposed Area F expansion of the Rosebud Coal Mine.
- The Rosebud Mine Area F expansion project is located 12 miles west of Colstrip, Montana, in Rosebud and Treasure counties. The Area F project would expand the Rosebud Mine, which currently is a 25,576-acre surface coal mine producing low-sulfur subbituminous coal. The surface of the permit area is entirely privately owned, and the subsurface minerals are either privately or federally held. WECo, a subsidiary of Westmoreland Coal Company, operates the Rosebud Mine.
- The proposed permit area for Area F would add 6,746 acres (4,287 acres would be disturbed by the mining operations, highwall reduction, soil storage, scoria pits, haul road construction, and other miscellaneous disturbances) in Township 2 North, Range 38 and 39 East, and Township 1 North, Range 39 East. If approved, Area F would add coal reserves to the existing Rosebud Mine and extend mine life by an estimated 19 years.
- Beginning in 2017, WECo proposes to mine 2,164 acres within the proposed 6,746-acre Area F permit area and would complete mining operations by 2036. During the first 12 years of production, 4,000,000 tons of coal would be mined annually, with the rate dropping to 3,250,000 tons annually during the last 7 years of production.
- The coal mining method proposed would be the same area strip mining method that WECo currently uses in other permitted areas of the Rosebud Mine. In advance of each mining pass, soil would be removed from the area and stockpiled according to type for use later during reclamation. Next, the overburden (sedimentary rock material covering the coal seams) would be drilled and blasted. Overburden from the initial cut would be stockpiled as spoil. A dragline would then be used to strip the overburden from succeeding mine passes. Spoil would be cast into the mined-out pit created by the preceding pass. After the dragline exposes the coal seam in each pass, the coal would be drilled and blasted. A loading shovel, front-end loader, or backhoe would be used to load blasted coal into coal haulers.
- The coal would be transported on an established haul road to permit Area C for crushing. From there, per WECo’s contract with PPL Electric Utilities Corporation, most of the coal would be sent via the existing 4.2-mile conveyor to the Colstrip Steam Electric Station. Coal with higher sulfur content (an estimated 105,000 tons/year) would be trucked to the Rosebud Power Plant. WECo does not propose to ship any coal from Area F by rail.
- As proposed, initial operations in 2017 would be limited to mine passes in the northeastern portion of Area F and would sequentially progress toward the southwest, and then north to the final cuts. As mining progresses to each new portion of Area F, a boxcut will be made to expose the coal seam. Overburden stockpiles, soil stockpiles, and scoria pits would be developed adjacent to the active boxcut pit area. After the initial cut, spoil from succeeding mine passes would be deposited in previous passes, including the boxcut. The sequence of operations would be as follows: 1) sediment control, 2) soil salvage, 3) access and haul roads, 4) blasting, 5) overburden removal, 6) coal recovery, 7) highwall reduction, 8) backfilling and recontouring, and 9) revegetation.
- Starting in 2022, reclamation would be concurrent with and following mining (ending in 2042) and would facilitate the following post-mine land uses: grazing land, pastureland, cropland, and wildlife habitat. The major reclamation steps planned for before and after mining include soil material salvage and redistribution, pit backfilling, regrading and contouring, drainage construction, revegetation, and post-mine monitoring. In addition to reclamation of the landscape disturbed by actual mining, other disturbed areas would require reclamation including the road system, mine plant facilities, sedimentation ponds, and temporary diversion structures.
- Current land uses include grazing land, pastureland, cropland, and wildlife habitat. Tributaries of Horse Creek and West Fork Armells Creek, including Black Hank Creek, Donley Creek, Robbie Creek, and McClure Creek (all of which lie within the drainage of the Yellowstone River), drain the proposed mine area. A ridge in the western portion of the proposed mine area divides the Horse Creek and West Fork Armells Creek drainages.
Comments received by OSMRE during the scoping period were considered in preparation of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
On January 5, 2018, OSMRE published the Notice of Availability (NOA) for the Draft EIS in the Federal Register. The Draft EIS is available on the Document Library page of this website. NOA publication initiated a 60-day public comment period which ended on March 5, 2018. OSMRE and MT DEQ held a public meeting in Colstrip, MT on February 19, 2018. Comments received by OSMRE during the public comment period were considered in preparation of the Final EIS.
On November 30, 2018, OSMRE published the NOA for the Final EIS in the Federal Register. The Final EIS is available on the Document Library page of this website.
OSMRE issued a Record of Decision (ROD) based on the Final EIS on June 28, 2019. An electronic version of the ROD can be found in the Document Library.