Coal plant permit back on tableA coal company has re-submitted its application for a strip coal mine three miles west of South Heart after state officials deemed it deficient in April. If all permits are approved, the mine could be North Dakota’s first in 30 years.
A coal company has re-submitted its application for a strip coal mine three miles west of South Heart after state officials deemed it deficient in April. If all permits are approved, the mine could be North Dakota’s first in 30 years.
After the North Dakota Public Service Commission cited 37 deficiencies in South Heart Coal LLC’s March application, the company re-submitted its application October 26.
“Maybe now we can finally see what they’re actually planning to do,” said Mary Hodell of Neighbors United, a group opposing the project, according to a press release from the Dakota Resource Council. “Information about the project is pretty scarce and is constantly changing.”
South Heart Coal, which is jointly owned by Great Northern Project Development and Allied Syngas Corp., first filed its application on Oct. 15, 2008, only to have it returned with about 60 deficiencies, according to a previous Press article.
The company later withdrew the application in response to assumptions made about the company’s relation to a coal beneficiation plant proposed by GTL Energy USA Ltd., according the article.
“It was our way of demonstrating that we weren’t part of the GTL facility,” said GNPD Environmental Vice President Rich Southwick, according to a previous Press article.
Deficiencies in the last application included surface water, post-mining land use, business entity information, and reclamation and operation plans.
Jim Deutsch, director of the PSC’s Reclamation Division, said the PSC asked for further detail addressing impact concerns to stock dams and it appears it has been included on the resubmitted application.
Hodell said post-mining restoration of hydrological balance was of specific concern in the permit, according to the press release.
“We rely on shallow water wells for our livestock,” Hodell said. “I just don’t see how they can make the water magically reappear after they’ve mined it out with the coal.”
Deutsch said staff will be reviewing changes to the application to determine whether it is complete, a process that could take a couple weeks.
Deutsch said the application estimates about 130,000 tons of coal will be extracted in 2014, the first operational year. Slightly more than 900,000 tons are slated to be extracted the second year and about 2.4 million tons each year thereafter.
Southwick said in addition to responding to application deficiencies, the company also moved planned mine support facilities previously located near the Heart River to below the river’s south branch.
“Had we left the facilities up in the north, we would’ve had to cross 39th Street everyday with haul trucks and in order to do that we would have had to request that we would be allowed to close that road,” Southwick said. “When we looked at it again we thought, ‘Well that’s having to close that road way too early. We don’t want to have to close that road until we absolutely have to when we start mining.’”
Once the application is deemed complete, it is put out for public review and comment where the opportunity exists to request an informal conference on the application, Deutsch said.
A technical, more in-depth review is then conducted.
“They’re going after the mining permit application without any word on what the coal will be used for,” said Belfield resident Linda Weiss, a member of DRC-affiliate Badlands Area Resource Council, according the release. “I’m worried they may be ripping up our farm and ranch land to send coal to China or some other foreign country.”
But, reclamation laws do not require applicants to specify what the coal will be used for, Deutsch said.
The land plan described in the application has been designed to provide coal to a commercial scale gasification plant to be located adjacent to the mine, Deutsch said.
GTLE has a coal beneficiation plant project less than a half a mile away from GNPD’s proposed project.
“Yes there still is plans to build a beneficiation plant,” Southwick said. “It will be the same process that GTLE uses, in fact we’ll license GTL’s process, but it’ll be a much larger facility than GTL’s.”
Southwick said a plant is planned for the property’s south end where the extracted and beneficiated coal would be gasified to make hydrogen to drive a turbine producing electricity.
“Our plan is to still build that power plant,” Southwick said.