DEQ Investigation: No Permit Updates Necessary For Blackjewel Mines

Sep 18, 2019

Inspection Log From DEQ
Credit Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

Wyoming's Department of Environmental Quality says Contura Energy does not have to revise its permit to mine or for reclamation plans right now.

It comes in response to an August 28 complaint from the Powder River Basin Resource Council (PRBRC), a landowners' group, arguing the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines have been inactive for enough time without seeing updated relevant plans that Contura is in violation of state and federal rules.

The group cites state regulation: "When it is known that a temporary cessation of operations will extend beyond 30 days, the operator shall submit to the Administrator that information required in an annual report."

The clause on temporary cessation exists as recourse to companies that abandon mines.

The PRBRC argued that the violation prompts Blackjewel and/or Contura to provide new information including its efforts to stabilize the mines, correct environmental hazards and describe future plans for mine operation and reclamation.

Keith Guille, a spokesman for Wyoming's Department of Environmental Quality, said Contura is not in violation at this point and won't have to redo its permit. That's because there has been activity at Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr.

"There are very small operations and we recognize they are small, but they are still meeting their permit and reclamation plan," Guille said.

DEQ's response letter said the mines have shipped six to eight train units of coal weekly since July 5. Guille added the department has been particularly diligent about ensuring compliance at both mines.

"We went out, I believe nine times, and inspected the facilities to ensure that is happening, that they are meeting their requirements. And currently, they are," Guille said.

The PRBRC still awaits response from the DEQ's federal counterpart, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE). The group requested OSMRE conduct a federal investigation and take enforcement action if Wyoming's DEQ does not issue a notice of violation.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Cooper McKim, at cmckim5@uwyo.edu.