The U.S. Interior Department's Office of Surface MiningReclamation and Enforcement issued an approved mining plan modification toallow continued mining of federal coal at the Trapper mine in .
The approval followed a finding of no significant impact inthe environmental assessment of the mine. The decision allows to continue miningand produce up to 2.6 million tons of coal from two federal coal leasesoriginally issued in 1958 and 1962.
"The [finding of no significant impact] concludes thatmining operations under the Trapper mining plan are not expected to have anysignificant environmental effect and that, as a result, there would be no needfor the agency to prepare an environmental impact statement," a legalnotice filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado said.
Trapper utilizes dragline, truck shovel and highwall miningmethods for coal that is burned at the Craig power station co-owned byTri-State Generation andTransmission Association Inc. The mine employees 180 people,according to an Interior Department release. U.S. Mine Safety and HealthAdministration data shows the mine produced about 2.1 million tons of coal in2015 and about 472,879 tons in the first quarter of 2016.
The decision is not affected by a recent decision by theObama administration to place a moratorium on federal coal leasing is it is nota new lease. Colorado's Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety approved theoperations with the determination that a $23.4 million reclamation performancebond was adequate for the operation.
The environmental assessment is the product of agreement withcitizen groups and the mine operator that required a new environmentalassessment due to deficiencies in the original. The new assessment included thepotential for direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts to the environment thatcould occur. It also included the impacts from burning the coal.
A similar assessmentwas done on the Colowyo mine, which is also owned by Tri-State.