SHERIDAN — Ramaco Carbon’s ability to mine its private coal assets cleared a key hurdle Friday. A Wyoming District Court Judge in Cheyenne affirmed that the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council was correct to give Ramaco an “order in lieu” of consent over objections from Big Horn Coal, a subsidiary of Utah-based coal mining company Lighthouse Resources and a surface owner to part of Ramaco’s holdings.

An “order in lieu” of consent is a provision in Wyoming statutes that allows a state agency to grant consent to a mining applicant’s permit filing when a surface owner is being unreasonable in withholding such consent.

Ramaco attorney Tom Sansonetti noted that the Wyoming District Court found the state EQC had the statutory authority to determine Ramaco’s right to extract coal underneath Big Horn Coal’s surface land. Big Horn Coal had appealed the unanimous EQC vote in 2016.

At issue in the appeal were Ramaco’s property rights to use the surface lands for the purpose of mining its coal as set out in a 1954 deed.

Sansonetti explained that the EQC is tasked by state statutes to find the presence of five elements, one of which is whether the applicant has the right to extract coal. In this instance, he said the district court affirmed that the EQC can interpret the 1954 deed and other property rights documents when determining the statutory elements for “order in lieu” of consent.

On the question of present and future mining, Sansonetti said the district court found that the language of the 1954 deed, when read along with a 1983 release agreement between the parties’ predecessors, effectively precludes Big Horn Coal from objecting to Ramaco’s application for a mining permit for its Brook Mine.

Big Horn Coal’s challenge to the EQC order claimed the decision was not supported by substantial evidence. The court found the opposite — that the EQC order in lieu of consent was supported by substantial evidence, Sansonetti said.

Ramaco has recently submitted a revised mine permit application to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. The court’s decision means that Ramaco does not have to re-obtain consent from Big Horn Coal since all landowner consents associated with the original application carry over to the revised application.

Ramaco chairman Randall Atkins said the resolution of this case is one more positive step toward creating the vertically-integrated coal mining, research and advanced manufacturing platform in Sheridan that Ramaco has been pursuing.

Ramaco plans to pursue using coal to make advanced carbon manufactured products, rather than burning coal for power generation. Coal from the proposed Brook Mine near Sheridan mine would be used in Ramaco’s planned iCAM research campus for coal-to-products research and development and later in manufacturing carbon products at the adjoining iPark mine-mouth industrial park. Construction on the first phase of the iCAM research park is now underway, according to Ramaco officials.

Ramaco’s Brook Mine would be the first private coal mine permitted in Wyoming in more than four decades.