Alton Coal Development
Alton Coal Development is a Limited Liability Company formed in 2004 and owned by five individuals, two of whom are retired coal mining executives. Their offices are located in Cedar City, Utah and Naples, Florida.The company is currently in the process of permitting a surface coal operation at the Coal Hollow Mine in southern Utah. The Coal Hollow Mine permit application was submitted on June 27, 2006. The permit was approved by the State of Utah on November 11, 2009.
Coal Hollow Mine
This proposed coal mine would be located in the Alton coalfield in Kane County approximately 3 miles south of the town of Alton, Utah. Alton Coal Development, LLC proposes to surface mine about 2,000,000 tons of fee coal annually for approximately 3 years. The mine would operate 6 days per week, 24 hours per day. Coal would be transported from the loadout via 43-ton coal trucks. Trucks would travel from Alton to Highway 89, north to US 20, east to I-15, south on I-15 to Cedar City and from Cedar City west 10 miles to a proposed rail loadout. Approximately 190 truck trips per day, 5 days per week would be required to handle the 2,000,000 tons of annual coal production.
In November 2009 the State of Utah, Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, under Director John Baza, released an application approval with conditions for Alton Coal Development to mine 2,000,000 tons of coal per year for approximately three years from the Coal Hollow Mine. The state approval is separate from any applications to mine on public lands nearby, which is going through a separate federal approval process.
On October 10, 2011 the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining approved a preliminary permit for the Coal Hollow Mine, located on private land just 10 miles south of Bryce Canyon National Park. The mine would be the state's first strip coal mine. Alton Coal Development hopes to mine 2 million tons of coal per year for three years. The company must secure a $6 million reclamation bond before receiving final approval of its mining permit. According to an internal memo obtained by the Associated Press, the permitting decision may have been fast-tracked by Governor Herbert after a meeting during which Alton complained that the process was taking too long.
In November 2011, a coalition of environmental groups filed a petition to block the mine, arguing that the project would damage the region's air, water, wildlife and cultural resources. The groups include The Utah chapter of the Sierra Club, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Parks Conservation Association. The Division of Oil, Gas and Mining is expected to begin hearings on the petition in December.
Environmental Group Questions Mining Board Makeup
In March, 2010 the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) challenged the Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining board stating that any members with financial interests in coal mining should recuse themselves from decisions on Alton Coal Development's mine-reclamation plan. The Oil, Gas & Mining board countered that the board makeup is governed by the Utah Coal Act, which the federal government has certified. But SUWA argues the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act requires land board members to certify they have no financial stake in matters before the agency. If they do have such an interest, stated SUWA attorney Steve Bloch, then they must refrain from voting on the issue.
In November of 2011 it was announced that Bureau of Land Management reported it was considering a proposal to greatly expand the Coal Hallow Mine operation to more than 3,500 acres from a 635 acre mine. The the agency released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement laying out the proposal, which quickly drew reaction from environmental and conservation groups that formed an online petition opposing the project.
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- "Hollow Coal Mine and Reclamation Plan" Powerpoint presentation, accessed November 2009
- "Coal Hollow" Utah.gov, accessed November 2009
- Dixie Brunner,"Alton Coal leaps hurdle in getting state approval" Southern Utah News, November 11, 2009
- Mark Havnes, "Environmental groups move to stop strip mine," Salt Lake Tribune, November 20, 2009.
- "Memo: Utah regulators sped up mine permit decision," Associated Press, November 19, 2009.
- "SUWA questions makeup of state mining board" Patty Henetz, The Salt Lake Tribune, March 23, 2010.
- "BLM Considering Proposal To Expand Coal Mine Near Bryce Canyon National Park" Kurt Repanshek, Natural Parks Traveler, November 14, 2011.
- "Dirty Coal Should Stay in the Ground" Dirty Coal Should Stay in the Ground, Sharon Buccino, NRDC, November 3, 2011.