Colowyo lease modification OK’d while expansion awaits final approval |

Colowyo lease modification OK’d while expansion awaits final approval

Coal is being removed from the high wall at Colowyo. A high wall digs into a mined wall and extracts coal from a seam in between layers of other material and soil.
Noelle Leavitt Riley

The Bureau of Land Management Little Snake Field Office approved a lease modification for Colowyo Mine at the end of June.

The modification provides the mine with just more than 27 acres to store overburden and facilitates the protection of greater sage grouse as a part of the Collom Expansion Area’s proposed mining plan.

“It’s just one part of the process,” said Lee Boughey, senior manager of corporate communications and public affairs for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, the company that owns Colowyo.

Approval of the expansion’s final mining plan is still pending but Boughey said he expects a decision from the Department of the Interior this fall.

Chris Joyner, public affairs specialist for the BLM Colorado Northwest District, said the 27.84-acres lease modification is part of the mine’s reclamation process.

“The nonmarketable overburden will be stored there and be used for reclamation when that mine activity is done,” he said.

If given the go-ahead from the assistant secretary for lands and minerals, the Collom Expansion Area would give the mine access to another 79 million tons of federal coal and secure its 220 jobs for at least another two decades.

The plan also accounts for mitigating the surface disturbance at the mine.

“If they’re changing the surface in anyway, they’ll mitigate that change by creating a very similar or the same type of resource somewhere else,” he said.

As part of the plan’s mitigation efforts, Tri-State is giving 4,543 acres of priority greater sage grouse habitat in the Axial Basin to Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife and is donating $150,000 to Colorado Parks and Wildlife for a study on how mining activities affect greater sage grouse.

“This lease modification was required in our efforts for sage grouse habitat mitigation, “said Boughey. “It’s an important of our continued efforts to protect the sage grouse.”

The expansion is not affected by the Interior Department’s pause on federal coal leasing announced Jan. 15 because the coal in the Collom area was leased to Tri-State in 1982 and 2007.

Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.

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