Local Group Objects to Transfer of Mine Permits

Powder River Basin Resource Council (Resource Council) has filed an objection to the transfer of permits for Contura’s Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mine permits to Black Jewel, LLC.

In a petition to the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council (WEQC) today, the Resource Council objected to permits PT0214 for the Belle Ayr Mine and PT0428 for Eagle Butte Mine on the grounds that it fails to meet WEQC’s criteria regarding reclamation bonding standards and that Blackjewel does not meet state and federal criteria as a qualified operator.

“We need to take our time with this permit and make sure the federal and state laws are being followed,” Resource Council Chair Joyce Evans stated in a press release Nov. 29. “We must be especially vigilant about ensuring adequate bonds are in place and that any company who wants to do business in Wyoming is going to be a responsible operator.”

This falls on the heels of the Resource Council’s earlier objection for the proposed renewal of Contura’s Belle Ayr permit in October, which objected to Contura’s use of ranchland as collateral in guaranteeing a portion of the mine’s reclamation bond. The Council called into question the $27 million figure for the Campbell County land parcels and requested more transparency. The group’s request for an informal conference on the matter was ultimately denied by DEQ.

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“Wyoming taxpayers deserve to know whether they are getting a good deal when it comes to millions of dollars in mine reclamation,” Evans said in part in the press release, pointing out that allowing Contura to be the first company to use a real-estate bond for reclamation could set a precedent for many such deals to follow.

Additionally, the group of concerned area ranchers and farmers questioned Black Jewel’s owner Jeff Hoops, who also owns an Appalachian coal mine, Revelation Energy, which they claim has a pattern of operational and safety violations, many of which were severe enough to shut down part of its operation until the problems were fixed.

Given that state law prevents coal mine permits from being issued to operations with a pattern of violations, the Resource Council stated in their release, they’ve requested that the EQC deny the transfer of permits.

Representatives from Blackjewel were not available for comment by press time Thursday.