Photo Courtesy Brook Mine Company Coal Wyoming.
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced Tuesday the approval of a coal mine permit application for Brook Mine Company, LLC, Permit #PT0841. The Brook Mine will encompass 4,548 acres eight miles northwest of Sheridan, near Ranchester, with approval for surface and highwall mining.
This is the first new mine permit issued in Wyoming in 25 years.
The approved application comes after several months of review by the Land Quality Division (LQD), with Brook filing their initial permit application in October 2014. There have been multiple denials and revisions since. However, the permit approval is not without its detractors, according to Jill Morrison with the Powder River Basin Resource Council.
Morrison criticized Sheridan-based Ramaco Carbon, the parent company of Brook Mine, for having a history of “shady dealings” and said they shouldn’t be trusted to do what they say they’ll do.
“Ramaco’s principal officers, Charles Atkins, who is the director of development for Ramaco and his brother, Randall Atkins, who is the CEO of Ramaco, both have a documented history of fraudulent business activity,” she said, adding that in 1987, Charles was indicted and later sentenced in what the New York Times reported as ‘one of the largest tax fraud cases ever filed.’
According to Morrison, the Times story quoted former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani, who said, “It if isn’t the largest case, it’s one of the largest.”
Marcia Weskott, chair of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, echoed the same sentiment.
“The fact that the Wyoming DEQ placed 12 conditions on the permit is an indication that the Brook Mine permit is inadequate and incomplete,” Weskott said. “Currently, we are reviewing all of the conditions to make sure that the permit will protect the health and safety of the Tongue River Valley and its inhabitants.”
Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, disagreed.
“It’s been 25 years since we’ve approved a new mine here,” he said. “And it’s been in the works for six years. Wyoming produces about 25% of the nation’s energy mix, so our coal is very important. We produce more coal here than the next five states combined. Our coal burns cleaner than eastern coal.”
Ramaco has met every requirement set forth by the DEQ and has made substantial guarantees regarding reclamation of the land and environmental protections, according to Deti. The conditions that Brook Mine agreed to were in response to requests and concerns of the public.
Permit conditions will require Brook Mine to, among other things, limit blasting to weekdays between 8 a.m. and sunset, update wildlife monitoring data, limit ground vibration to protect structures near the permit area and post a reclamation bond of $1,358,637 prior to any mining disturbance.