- Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2015

SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) - A legal dispute over surface access has threatened to derail a company’s plan to open a new coal mine in northern Wyoming that could employ 600 people.

Ramaco Wyoming Coal had hoped to open the proposed Brook Mine a few miles north of Sheridan next year. The company plans to mine up to 8 million tons annually.

The Lexington, Kentucky-based firm has failed to reach a surface use agreement with a second coal company, Lighthouse Resources Inc., over access to the proposed mine site, court filings show.

The dispute centers on a 1954 deed that gives Ramaco the right to the property’s mineral estate and Big Horn Coal, a Lighthouse subsidiary, ownership of the surface.

Ramaco contends that the deed gives it the right to mine the property while Big Horn Coal argues the document entitles it to review and approve development plans.

In January, Sheridan District Court Judge William J. Edelman rejected a motion by Big Horn Coal to dismiss a lawsuit by Ramaco over the issue. The case is pending, the Casper Star-Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1zSMXp8).

The dispute has thrown into limbo the company’s permit application to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

DEQ initially issued Ramaco a letter in November saying its application was complete. But in an April 2 letter, the department said it had identified deficiencies in the paperwork.

The letter included comments from the Wyoming attorney general’s office, which noted the company failed to include surface access agreements and consent forms.

The attorney general’s office requested the company supply documents related to the ongoing court case as well as the necessary surface use agreements.

DEQ spokesman Keith Guille said it is not uncommon for the agency to ask for more information during a permit review.

Permits are highly technical documents and companies rarely submit all the needed information on first go-around, he said, noting Ramaco has yet to respond to the state inquiry.

The involvement of the attorney general’s office is unusual in a permit review, said Shannon Anderson, a lawyer at the Powder River Basin Resource Council in Sheridan.

“The fact the AG’s office is involved shows some pretty big deficiencies and a big controversy Ramaco didn’t mention to the agency in their permit application,” Anderson said.

Lighthouse Resources CEO Everett King and Ramaco CEO Randall Atkins did not respond to a request for comment from the Star-Tribune.

Sheridan County has a long mining history, but the area has not had any active coal mines since the Big Horn Coal mine closed in the 1980s.

Lighthouse Resources, formerly Ambre Energy North America, owns the Decker Mine in Montana and the Black Butte Mine in southwestern Wyoming.


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, https://www.trib.com

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