What would be the first new coal mine to open in Wyoming in decades is one step closer to becoming reality after the state's Environmental Quality Council voted Wednesday to allow the project to proceed despite the objections of another coal company.
Big Horn Coal, a subsidiary of Lighthouse Resources, owns the land where the new mine would be developed while Ramaco owns the coal underneath. In Wyoming, mineral rights typically take precedence over surface rights, although companies do typically have to compensate surface owners for any disturbance. Big Horn Coal argued that Ramaco’s operations would interfere with its future use of the property, including use of a rail spur and loading terminal already on the site.
The Council disagreed, voting unanimously to override Big Horn Coal's objections.
“The decision amply demonstrates that the protests from another coal company to try to stop mining here in Wyoming were ill-advised,” said Ramaco CEO Randall Atkins.
Ramaco still needs final mine permits from the Department of Environmental Quality, but if those are issued, Atkins says the company hopes to start mining in the first quarter of next year.
Atkins declined to provide specifics about whether the company has contracts in place to purchase the coal that would be mined.
Ramaco's push to open a new mine comes as mines across the country are shutting down.
Most mines in the Powder River Basin are open-pit surface mines. The Ramaco mine will also be a surface mine, but will use highwall mining techniques, which involve digging a deep but relatively narrow trench, and augering out the coal from the bottom with a special machine. The company says the technique will allow it to mine the coal more cheaply.