SHERIDAN — The Bureau of Land Management announced earlier this week that its Miles City Field Office has received an application from Decker Coal Company to add 500 acres of land to two of its federal coal leases.
The BLM is seeking public comment on the lease modifications until May 31. The agency will hold a public meeting at the Fulmer Public Library May 22 from 1-3 p.m. to hear comments on the issue.
Decker spokeswoman Liz Fuller said the application is intended to allow Decker to continue enacting its current mine plan and will not affect total production levels or result in any new hiring.
The newly requested lands are adjacent to the current Decker Mine permit boundary, which covers approximately 7,255 acres about 20 miles northeast of Sheridan.
Decker Coal Company operates the complex and uses surface mining methods to extract the coal in addition to performing environmental reclamation activities. Mining commenced at West Decker in 1972.
Also earlier this week, the office of Gov. Matt Mead announced Wyoming is set to mine its 10 billionth ton of coal at some point in May.
Despite threats to coal’s stronghold on the domestic electricity market such as falling natural gas prices, newly enacted environmental regulations and a public that is increasingly hostile to its use, industry experts tout the potential for increased exportation to Asia as reason to be optimistic.|
According to statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Agency, two Wyoming mines — North Antelope Rochelle and Black Thunder — accounted for 20 percent of all coal produced in the United States in 2012. Additionally, nine out of the top 10 producing U.S. coal mines are located in the Cowboy State.
Several groups are working to develop port infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest that could allow Wyoming and Montana coal producers to ship more of their product to coal hungry markets in rapidly developing Asian countries.
Additionally, local economic development group Forward Sheridan is in talks with BNSF railway about potential railroad reroutes that would allow the company to transport increased shipments of coal around Sheridan rather than directly through it.