SHERIDAN — On Saturday, carbon tech company Ramaco Carbon submitted a revised permit application for the Brook Mine, on mineral reserves and land it owns and controls in Sheridan County. Rather than simply addressing the issues raised by the Environmental Quality Council in September 2017, individuals associated with the project said the application revises and improves the requested permit with comprehensive environmental and quality of life protections.
“This revised application exceeds not only what’s required under state law, but federal regulations as well,” said Jeff Barron, a project manager with WWC Engineering who led work on the revisions submitted Friday to Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality.
“It is extremely comprehensive,” Barron said. “We’re confident it addresses the concerns raised by EQC commissioners and the Sheridan community. It certainly provides the most far reaching environmental protections of any coal mine permit ever considered in Wyoming.”
The Powder River Basin Resource Council, which have been vocally against the project, and some neighbors expressed doubt in the revised application.
“We haven’t seen the permit application yet, but we don’t expect this one to be any better than the last one,” said Joan Tellez, a neighboring Tongue River Valley landowner. “They haven’t had time to collect the data or do the sampling required by the Environmental Quality Council. We’re still waiting for Ramaco to keep their promises, and believe this is just more smoke and mirrors. The mine plans keep changing in scope and size; it’s a moving target, so we don’t believe anything until we see it.”
Staff attorney for PRBRC Shannon Anderson said they remained skeptical that Ramaco Carbon has addressed all the serious problems from the first mine permit.
According to a press release from Ramaco Carbon, Tte primary changes to the Brook Mine application include:
• Enhanced modeling efforts that confirm the project will have minimal impacts to existing water supply wells, local aquifers and the Tongue River alluvial valley. The revised application expands the hydrologic study area and incorporates additional data points and technical information to better safeguard the resources. All this has been incorporated in the predictive modeling. Independent water monitoring research conducted by the Sheridan County Conservation District is also included in the permit application.
• The revised application scales back initial production tonnage by 90 percent. This reflects the mine’s use as part of an integrated platform to provide feedstock for a variety of high-value coal based carbon products, which do not require the same coal volumes as utility usage. This reduction will also mean more limited commercial traffic in the immediate area during business hours, and a lower overall impact for the project.
• The plan commits to limits on the blast shot size, a commitment to not blast near sunset or on weekends/ federal holidays, and an opt-in advance notification system for neighbors within ½ mile of the shot.
• An independent firm has completed a design report for the first area where high wall mining will occur and also reviewed the causation of historic subsidence in the region. They have confirmed the mine design does not create the types of conditions that have led to subsidence in the past. This report will serve as the template for future highwall mining designs throughout the permit area.
Randall Atkins, CEO of Ramaco Carbon, said the company was proud of the revised application.
“We wanted to show the Sheridan community, and Wyoming overall, that we will to be good stewards of the land, air and overall environment, as well as be sensitive to local concerns. This we feel we have done, while still addressing the economic needs to create a viable project which will ultimately benefit the entire community and state,” Atkins said in a press release. “For those who have raised concerns about the project, we’ve reflected a plan which surpasses the EQC’s recommendations with additional environmental and quality of life protections.
“Ramaco Carbon looks forward to continue being a productive, positive member of Sheridan community for years to come,” Atkins continued. “Hopefully this application shows our seriousness of purpose.”
The proposed Brook Mine will be part of the first vertically integrated resource, research and manufacturing carbon tech complex that will also include the iCAM carbon research park, which Ramaco recently announced will soon commence construction — and the iPark coal-to-products manufacturing facilities. A recent report by the American Jobs Project, a nonpartisan think tank, designated the carbon tech industry as one of Wyoming’s top economic opportunities, capable of supporting 2600 jobs annually in the state.