West Elk Mine to Despoil Wildlands, Fuel Climate Change

October 1, 2018

19020280130_4325f606c1_kWildEarth Guardians last week stepped up its confrontation of Arch Coal’s plans to expand the West Elk mine in western Colorado.

In an appeal filed with the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board, Guardians, called for the rejection of a permit revision that would allow Arch to expand its mining operations into roadless National Forest lands near the town of Paonia.

The appeal was filed together with the Center for Biological Diversity, High Country Conservation Advocates, and the Sierra Club.

Located on the flanks of Colorado’s iconic West Elk Mountains, the West Elk mine is a climate and public lands disaster.  While an underground mine, it’s so gassy that Arch has to construct systems of methane venting wells on the surface above in order to safely mine.

Although venting methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is a climate nightmare, the practice has effectively turned the lands above the West Elk mine into a gas field, industrializing what was once pristine, undisturbed National Forest.

At the end of 2017, the Trump Administration approved new federal coal leases for the mine.  The new leases allowed Arch to expand into the Sunset Roadless Area, a beautiful expanse of completely untouched forest next to the West Elk Wilderness Area.

We’re in federal court now hoping to overturn the approval of these coal leases.

In the meantime, Arch is seeking approval from Colorado to revise its permit and start start mining the leases.  So, we’re pushing back on this front as well and taking the fight to Colorado coal mine regulators.

It’s the latest salvo in our campaign to both defend National Forest roadless lands from fossil fuel development, as well as push back on the senseless and destructive practice of methane venting at coal mines.

Jeremy Nichols

About the Author

Jeremy Nichols | Climate and Energy Program Director, WildEarth Guardians

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