The North Fork Valley is proud of its coal mining heritage. One way that heritage is honored is through the bronze miner's statue memorial at Paonia Town Park. The statue was dedicated back in 1982.
On Dec. 11, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest Supervisor Scott Armentrout signed the Record of Decision (ROD) for Federal Coal Lease Modifications COC-1362 and COC-67232. The ROD outlines Armentrout's decision to consent to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) modifying two federal coal leases with terms and conditions to protect forest resources.
A report released by The Wilderness Society raises the alarm about Colorado's upper North Fork of the Gunnison Watershed, along with other wild lands across the U.S. threatened by extractive industries eager to exploit the resources on or underneath them, including oil, gas and coal.
'Too Wild To Drill' identifies 15 unique places found on public lands that are at high risk of drilling, mining and other development.
The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, and Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety has announced the availability of the Forest Service's draft record of decision and supplemental final Environmental Impact Statement for two federal coal lease modifications and an on-lease exploration plan for West Elk Coal Mine.
Representatives of Mountain Coal Company on Monday asked the Board of County Commissioners for words of support as the North Fork mine begins once again the process of applying for a federal lease modification to explore for, and hopefully one day mine, new coal resources.
The company's plans for expansion were halted abruptly five years ago on the day before construction was to begin.
Think of a coal miner and you might see a steely-eyed man in a hard hat, his face and clothing blackened with carbon. But in the North Fork area, where coal mines have operated for more than 100 years, Kathy Welt is one of the most recognizable faces in the industry.
The Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources announces the release of the Colorado Roadless Rule Record of Decision and Final Rule. This action codifies an important piece of the compromise that the Forest Service, the state and Coloradans forged during the extensive process to develop the 2012 Colorado Roadless Rule.
According to a public notice published in the DCI Bowie Resources, LLC has submitted an application for a technical revision to the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety in Denver. Approval of the revision would allow for a change in the permit application to the Bowie No. 2 Mine. The mine is currently idle.
County government continues moving forward on opportunities to support the coal industry.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Regional Forester announced that his agency has completed the rule making and environmental analyses to reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area Exception to the Colorado Roadless Rule.
With decisions on rules that will affect coal mining in the North Fork Valley on the horizon, the White House Office of Management and Budget met last week with mine officials, representatives of local government and others from the Western Slope to hear how the rules are affecting coal mining in the North Fork Valley.
Arch Coal announced last week that it has successfully completed its financial restructuring and emerged from court protection, with new equity that will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol ARCH.
Arch Coal operates West Elk Mine near Somerset.
Cedaredge Town Board members are hearing that declines in revenue tied to the loss of North Fork Valley coal mining jobs and production will have an impact on the 2017 budget.
According to a report to the trustees from town hall staff in September, the average income to the town's general fund from minerals leasing and severance taxes between 2009 and 2014 was $90,944 a year.
In a letter addressed to Secretary Sally Jewell, U.S. Department of the Interior, County Commissioners Bruce Hovde, Doug Atchley and Mark Roeber told Secretary Jewell, "Coal is the backbone of our nation's electric grid and Delta County."
The letter enumerates costs to the coal industry which add to the companies' expense in doing business.
With time running out for North Fork citizens and municipalities to submit formal written comments on the Bureau of Land Management's draft Resource Management Plan for managing BLM-administered surface land and mineral estate in southwestern Colorado, Alex Johnson requested to speak at the July 26 Paonia town board meeting.
Johnson, executive director for the Western Slope Conservation Center, said he represents the organization's roughly 450 members, most of whom live in the North Fork area and Paonia.
North Fork towns are working to meet the approaching deadline for commenting to the Bureau of Land Management regarding implementation of a moratorium on new coal leasing. The moratorium remains in place while a full comprehensive review of possible reforms to the industry is carried out by the Department of the Interior, which oversees coal leasing programs.
Following the July 4 Cherry Days parade, a tribute was made to coal mining, the coal miners who worked and died in the mines, and the prosperity the mines brought to the people of the North Fork Valley. Cherry Days committee member Ulli Lange spoke of the earliest days of mining; Paonia native Claudia King spoke of her 76 years growing up in a coal mining community; and Paonia Poet Laureate Marian Stewart read "Ambiguity," about her positive and negative views of living in a coal mining town.
A major battle in the war on coal was fought at Grand Junction on June 23 as proponents of the industry went head-to-head with its opponents in hearings hosted by the U.S. Department of Interior and BLM.
Nationally, BLM is evaluating whether to raise the current 12.5 percent federal royalty rate on coal mined by above-ground producers, and 8 percent royalty on underground producers using public lands.
In advance of a BLM hearing in Grand Junction Tuesday, Western Colorado Congress (WCC) and Delta County Economic Development hosted a "Coal Conversation."
The June 23 hearing focused on a moratorium on new coal leases on federal land and a proposal to increase royalties on production -- both of which could put additional pressure on the struggling coal industry.
Citizens from across Colorado and the West are expected to show up in force in Grand Junction June 23 to protest the Interior Department's moratorium on new coal leases from federal land and its attempt to stop existing mines through increased royalties on production.
The beleaguered population of coal miners in the North Fork Valley and their families received more bad news last Thursday when Arch Coal announced another round of layoffs.
The West Elk Mine near Somerset reduced its workforce by 80 employees. West Elk is the latest Delta County mine to severely restructure after Oxbow Mining's Elk Creek Mine closed and the Bowie No. 2 Mine was idled.
Friday, April 29, was a day of palpable sadness for the once world-class, community-building coal mining industry of the North Fork Valley.
That was the day the previously announced layoff of more than 100 miners at the Bowie mine took effect, said a local mining official at the Municipal Quarterly meeting in Paonia last Friday.
The coal storage silo at the Oxbow Mine got taken down Friday morning, marking the end of an era and, some said, a way of life.
Shortly after 9:30 a.m. the silo, built in 1969 in the heart of Somerset, collapsed with a thunderous boom and a dense cloud of coal dust after 300 pounds of dynamite demolished the structure.
After scaling back production at the Bowie #2 Mine near Paonia in September, Bowie Resource Partners last week announced the mine will be idled "as a result of continued market deterioration."
According to a Feb. 26 press release, the mine will remain idle while the market for Bowie #2 coal is evaluated.
The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced their intent to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to consider two coal lease modifications on lands adjacent to the West Elk Mine near Somerset.
On Jan. 18, the Delta County Commissioners ratified the county's position on reinstating the North Fork Coal Mining Area Exemption to the Colorado Roadless Rule.
The county had commented during the scoping period for the Forest Service's Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS).
Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO) is calling the Department of the Interior's (DOI) moratorium on federal coal leasing an "irresponsible, politically motivated decision that jeopardizes America's energy future."
On Friday, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced a comprehensive review that will take "a careful look at issues such as how, when and where to lease; how to account for the environmental and public health impacts of federal coal production; and how to ensure American taxpayers are earning a fair return for the use of their public resources."
"Arch is open for business, and our mining operations will continue without interruption."
After voluntarily filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday, Arch Coal, the owner of the local West Elk Mine, assured employees mine operations nationwide will continue "today and tomorrow as we did yesterday -- safely, responsibly and efficiently."
The coal industry remains in a period of distress due to strict governmental regulations, oversupply in the global coal market, increased competition from natural gas, and low coal demand and prices, among other factors.
This management analysis has led Arch Coal to warn that a significant financial restructuring will be required for the publicly traded company to operate as a going concern over the long term.
The announcement of layoffs at Bowie Mine #2 on Sept. 29 by its wholly-owned subsidiary, Bowie Resources LLC (BRP), is expected to have lasting negative impacts on Delta County's economy.
BRP will lay off 78 full-time positions and eliminate 19 contractors as part of its efforts to scale back production of its Bowie #2 mine at Somerset "as a result of idling its longwall while it develops a new longwall panel and continues to evaluate the market for Bowie #2 coal," according to a press release. Development of the new longwall panel is expected to take 12 months.
The North Fork area has a rich history of coal mining. Unfortunately, mining is a boom-and-bust industry that includes a long history of layoffs.
James Roberts knows what it's like to lose a good-paying mining job.
The U.S. Interior Department is holding a series of listening sessions targeting a recent proposal to raise royalty rates on leased federal coal. The first listening session was held in Golden Aug. 18.
Arch Coal, Inc. (NYSE:ACI) issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's final "Clean Power Plan" rule.
"The administration seems increasingly desperate to salvage an ill-advised and poorly designed rule, which won't work, won't pass muster with states, and won't stand up to legal scrutiny," said Deck Slone, Arch's senior vice president of strategy and public policy.
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