When the mining stops, work begins | CraigDailyPress.com

When the mining stops, work begins

Seneca official discusses reclamation progress

When Seneca Coal Company shuts down mining operations in December, Roy Karo will still have plenty of work to do.

Karo, the reclamation manager for Seneca, is leading the operation to restore the land in Routt County that has pumped out more than a million tons of coal annually since the mine opened in 1964.

Karo discussed the progress of some of Seneca’s reclamation efforts and the future of others Thursday night at the Northwest Colorado Energy Producers Association quarterly dinner at the Holiday Inn in Craig.

As mining pits are exhausted, Karo said, reclamation crews come in and restore the landscape to close to its original form.

Karo said Seneca has already finished reclamation operations on the Seneca II pit. The land now has 500 steers grazing on it and habitat for sage grouse and a variety of other wildlife.

The two pits that are in use will be reclaimed in similar ways, Karo said.

“We’re setting it up for wildlife and for grazing,” he said.

In the past month, more than 38,000 seedlings of various types have been planted at Seneca. Karo said the aspen trees have an 80 percent survival rate.

“I’m real proud of some of the stuff we’ve actually accomplished,” he said.

During the reclamation process, Karo said he is learning what works and what doesn’t.

Some plants, for example, are eaten by animals before they can grow. Karo said crews are putting up fences around serviceberry bushes to keep them from being eaten down to the soil.

Karo said after his presentation that reclamation work is ahead of the schedule Seneca gave to the state.

When reclamation work is finished in five years, Karo said it will be hard to tell a mine was there.

“The reclaimed land is going to stay as a lasting legacy,” Karo said.

Even after spending 28 years at Seneca, Karo said he isn’t sad about the mine closing down.

“I’ve waited all my life to do this work,” he said.

Seneca, which is owned by Peabody Energy, is closing because the coal deposits that are economically feasible to mine have been exhausted, a Peabody spokesman said earlier this year. When the mine shuts down, about half of the 100 employees there will be let go.

The Northwest Colorado Energy Producers Association is made up of representatives from the area’s mines and power plants and the companies that work with them.

Tonia Folks of ColoWyo Coal Company said the association is a way for local energy producers to get together and share information.

The association’s next meeting is in December.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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