Coal mine

CASPER (AP) — An independent council has upheld a decision by Wyoming environmental regulators to grant a mining permit to a coal technology company, making it the state's first new coal mine to open in decades.

The Wyoming Environmental Quality Council affirmed the permit extension on Wednesday, allowing Ramaco Carbon to dig for coal at a former mine site near Sheridan, The Casper Star-Tribune reported.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality originally granted the permit extension earlier this year, but the Powder River Basin Resource Council submitted an administrative appeal and petitioned a hearing.

The council argued that the permit application was deficient and lacked an adequate subsidence control plan and a full traffic plan and did not comply with all federal requirements.

However, the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council determined that Ramaco Carbon's "Brook Mine surface coal mine permit application substantially complies with Article 4 of the Wyoming Environmental Quality Act and all other applicable State and Federal Laws and regulations."

Powder River Basin Resource Council Chair Marcia Westkott said she was disappointed with the decision.

"We had hoped that solid science surrounding the risk of ground cave ins or subsidence issues would be acknowledged and that the state would agree that the company needs to provide a better overall plan for this serious issue," Westkott said, also urging the state to protect the Tongue River Valley.

Ramaco Carbon praised the council's decision to uphold the permit, standing by their original application.

"We are delighted that the (Environmental Quality Council) has brought this almost decade-long permit odyssey to an end," Ramaco Carbon CEO Randall Atkins said. "We salute the professionalism of the DEQ, and look forward to going to work developing our coal-to-products technology platform."

Atkins said the company is expecting to employ up to 40 workers when the coal mine initially opens.

Proponents of the operation have pointed to the positive economic growth the research and mining could spur for the county and state, especially as demand for thermal coal declines and economies are impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

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