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Wyoming clears way for new coal mine, overriding opposition from neighbor

The Wyoming Environmental Quality Council granted consent toRamaco LLC to moveforward in the permitting process for a new coal mine operation in the state,overriding opposition from a neighboring landowner.

During a Sept. 28 hearing held in Cheyenne, Wyo., the sixmembers of the council voted unanimously to allow consent in lieu of surfaceowners to Ramaco superseding a challenge from neighboring landowner, LighthouseResources Inc.  

According to Ramaco CEO Randy Atkins, the vote clears theway for the state permitting process to move forward with the publication ofthe permit by the state's Department of Environmental Quality for 30 days ofpublic comment.

Prior to this week, Ramaco had failed to secure consent fromtwo local land owners, including Lighthouse Resources Inc. and a local rancher.

In April, Atkins charged that Lighthouse was holding the mine project"ransom." According to the Ramaco CEO, Lighthouse had previouslysought $29 million and the assumption of its pension obligations at the Deckermine in exchange for surface rights. Meanwhile, the local rancher soughtleasing payments far higher than what Ramaco had agreed to pay other locallandowners.

According to Atkins, the company was able to secure consentfrom the rancher on Sept. 27, leaving only Lighthouse to contend with.

"In essence, we reached an agreement with one landownerand the EQC basically blanked the opposition of Lighthouse," Atkins said.

Ramaco acquired the project in 2011 and a coal mine and reclamation permitapplication with Wyoming regulators for a new operation in late 2014. Theapplication marked the first mine permit under review in Sheridan County, Wyo.in more than half a century.

Atkins told S&P Global Market Intelligence that acompany analysis has shown that the project would produce as many as 600 newjobs and generate about $464 million in wages over its lifetime. However, hesaid that a more recent assessment of the effort could increase those amountswhen the company unveils plans for the project in 30 to 45 days.

Lighthouse could not be reached for comment on the vote, butAtkins said he was not aware of any options for appealing the decision, addingthat he doubted any options remained.

"Given the clarity of the ECQ decision, including the6-0 decision and commentary offered with respect to each member of thecommission's view on Lighthouse, I think their options for appeal would berather limited," he said.  

The ECQ could not be reached for further comment on thedecision.