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Group concerned Wyoming accepting mining equipment for reclamation collateral

The Powder River Basin Resource Council is filing an objection letter with Wyoming environmental regulators raising concerns about Contura Energy Inc.'s bonding of its two Wyoming mines.

Shannon Anderson, a spokeswoman for the group, said the group is specifically "quite concerned" about the use of equipment and machinery for collateral. Anderson said the bonds are too risky to accept.

Contura, a company spun out of Alpha Natural Resources Inc., needs to secure permit transfers from Alpha. The council is seeking a meeting with the director of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

"With the company's recent bankruptcy proceedings and its continued financially weak position, its proposal to replace uncollateralized self-bonds with collateral bonds, and other risks to the public interest, these permit transfers present issues of first impression for our organization, the public, and the Department," a letter to Wyoming officials states. "We believe these issues would be well suited to be addressed in an informal conference with the director."

Alpha and Contura agreed to replace uncollateralized self-bonds during permit transfers in a bankruptcy deal with the U.S. Department of Interior. The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement recently advised states to reassess self-bonding with coal companies until the market recovers.

"As the Powder River Basin Resource Council's letter acknowledges, Contura's proposed bonds 'uphold the requirements of the agreement with the Department of Interior' and are fully allowed under the law," Contura said in a statement. "As the PRBRC continues to raise objections that hinder the leasing and production of Wyoming's coal resource, we will remain focused on operating safely and responsibly, to the benefit of our workforce, consumers, and community stakeholders."