The US District Court has given approval for a new environmental review for Trapper Mine expansion in an agreement between Trapper Mining, the Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining (OSM) and the environmental advocacy group WildEarth Guardians, setting an April 2016 deadline for completion after its previous go-ahead was deemed illegal.
Five months ago, judge Brooke Jackson ruled that the federal government had illegally given approval to the expansions of Trapper and the Colowyo Coal Mine between Craig and Meeker in 2007 and 2009, and that OSM had not issued a public notice of the decisions or provided details about the environment impact.
In 2013, the Trapper coal mine was part of a lawsuit filed by WildEarth Guardians that focused on the inadequacy of the environmental reviews carried out several years previously for Trapper Mine and the Colowyo coal mine, which are both in Colorado.
The lawsuit was filed against Trapper Mining and Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.
However, officials for the Trapper Mine mistakenly informed the court that mining in the area had already been taking place. Officials later informed the court of this error after Jackson issued new orders for a new environmental review of Colowyo mine and stated that the mine could face closure if the review was not completed by early September.
Now under the new agreement, which has been approved by Jackson, OSM will have to complete the new and improved environmental assessment of Trapper's federal coal leases in the US, as well as OSM's 2009 mine-plan modification approval by 30 April next year.
The judge ruled that Trapper Mining and OSM will have to come up with a timeline as well as concrete plan for environmental assessment and keep all stakeholders informed and engaged throughout the process.
Trapper Mining president and general manager Jim Mattern said: "We are pleased that judge Jackson recognised the good-faith efforts by OSM, WildEarth Guardians and Trapper Mining to develop a reasonable process and timeline.
"We are looking forward to working with OSM to complete its enhanced environmental review and with all stakeholders to fully implement this process."
During this review process, the mining operations at Trapper will continue but only in some areas.
The coal from the mines are used by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association's Craig Station power facility.
Trapper Mining operates a surface coal-mining operation in Craig, Colorado and is owned by four entities, including Tri-State Generation and Transmission and Platte River Power Authority, Arizona's Salt River Project and Oregon-based PacifiCorp.
The mine employs more than 180 people.
Image: OSM will have until 30 April 2016 to complete the new environmental assessment of Trapper's federal coal leases. Photo: courtesy of dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.