SUWA Challenges Reheated Permit Application for Lila Canyon Mine

Coal Mining Company Renews Bid Weeks After Board Rejection

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has attacked a renewed application for a coal mine in Lila Canyon, 25 miles south of Price, Utah. The canyon is in a proposed wilderness area, where seeps and springs create critical year around habitat for sensitive species, including bighorn sheep.

The renew bid follows on the heels of a SUWA legal victory that stalled the mining proposal. In December 2001, the Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining held the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining had improperly granted the permit because it failed to show how it would protect rare water sources in the area.

Just weeks later, on February 11, 2002 UtahAmerican Coal simply submitted another mine application that is virtually identical to one the Board rejected. With lightening speed, on February 25, 2002, the Division determined that the application was "Administratively Complete," or in other words, that it contained all information necessary to initiate processing and public review. SUWA disputes that the application is meaningfully different than the doomed 2001 version.

"You can’t put a skunk in a party dress and expect no one to notice," said Herb McHarg, the SUWA lawyer who spearheaded the challenge. "This is the same inadequate permit application the Board rejected in December."

The mine would include several buildings, a 4.7 mile haul road, a sediment pond, a huge mine fan. a conveyor, and a waste pile that would have leached acid and toxic forming materials into the ground. Coal haul trucks would have taken 550 round-trips daily from the mine to the already dangerous Highway 191. Underground coal mining beneath nearly 5,000 would have dewatering seeps and springs critical to area wildlife.

Prior to 2001, the Division rejected the mine permit six times because UtahAmerican had not gathered the baseline information necessary to analyze the mine plan. While UtahAmerican never provided the requisite information, the Division inexplicably approved the plan anyway.

"There are plenty of places to mine coal in Utah," says McHarg. "Remote wilderness lands with pristine wildlife habitat isn’t one of them."

 

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