A Wyoming government agency has delivered a major setback to Ramaco Carbon, LLC's effort to develop a coal mine intended to supply the raw material needed for advanced carbon fiber products.
The Wyoming Environmental Quality Council voted 4-1 against issuing a permit for the Brook mine near Sheridan, but it gave the coal producer instructions on how to remedy the deficiencies the council perceived.
Council members said the permit application was published prematurely and had a number of deficiencies, including failure to sufficiently seek public input on the project.
"As I sat through seven days of testimony on this case, I became more and more irritated by the lack of public input in this application process to date," David Bagley said at the Aug. 1 meeting.
Nick Agopian, who voted to approve Ramaco's application, said there was no explicit law that required Ramaco to seek public input, but he was disappointed the company had shown no attempt at engagement.
"Doing business in Wyoming requires you to be a good neighbor, and this would have been the most simple way to show the community where a large-scale mine is going in that they would be a good neighbor," he said at the meeting.
Council members said the permitting hearing would not have taken so long if Ramaco had engaged more with the public.
Other deficiencies councilors mentioned had to do with the finances available for reclamation, water contamination issues and a lack of clarity on when the coal producer would conduct blasting at the planned mine.
Ramaco Carbon, which operates under the same umbrella as Ramaco Resources Inc., said in a press release that it had "respectfully heard" the council's comments and would work with the state Department of Environmental Quality to rectify the concerns.
"We remain confident that, in the end, the Brook mine will receive the necessary mining approvals, as well as approvals to launch our research and other development efforts. We regard this overall project as a strong potential driver and benefit for the Sheridan and Wyoming economies and look forward to its future success."
The coal producer announced recently that it would receive a $7 million grant from the federal government to develop carbon fiber components using coal as a feedstock, though some critics said the announcement was misleading.
Ramaco Resources recently got better news in West Virginia, where the state Department of Environmental Quality issued a final reclamation and mine permit for its Berwind mine.
Bob LeResche, chair of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, said in a press release that the Wyoming hearing was an uphill battle for residents.
"We are grateful for the diligent efforts by the EQC members, who sat through a seven-day hearing and concluded that the proposed permit did not adequately protect public health and safety, land and water," he said. "Our members were subjected to a trial-like hearing with intimidating cross examination from state and industry lawyers, and we are grateful that justice has been served. We will remain vigilant and continue our efforts to ensure that any future proposed mine meets fair standards to protect our water and our land and does not threaten our safety."