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Colorado blocks mine company’s work in roadless forest area

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Posted at 1:18 PM, Jun 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-20 15:20:07-04

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — The state of Colorado intervened to block a company’s road construction and tree removal in a protected forest area.

Mountain Coal Co. recently built more than a mile (1.61 kilometers) of road in the Sunset Roadless Area to enable expansion of its underground West Elk Mine near Paonia, The Daily Sentinel reports.

The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety argued that a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in March prohibits the road construction.

The decision was formalized by a federal district court order Monday.

The state said it determined the mine failed to maintain its legal right to enter the roadless area and prohibited further activities that disturb the ground there, without blocking current underground operations.

The subsidiary of Arch Resources, the nation’s second largest coal company, seeks to expand its mine beneath about 2.7 square miles (7 square kilometers) of the roadless area.

The roads would access areas where the company plans to drill wells to vent methane produced during mining.

Arch Resources maintains a previous appeals court ruling affirmed its authority under an existing lease for limited road building to facilitate mining activities.

The U.S. Forest Service wrote an exemption to the state’s 2012 roadless rules to allow the mine expansion.

Conservation groups, which were backed by the state, argued the appeals court ruling was retroactive and the Forest Service could not authorize road construction when it consented to the mine’s lease modifications by the Bureau of Land Management.