Plans for Rilda Canyon Facility
|Carl Pollastro discusses the Rilda Canyon facility.|
Proposed construction of mine facilities in Rilda Canyon was the topic of discussion at the Emery County Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon held on Jan. 28 at the Museum of the San Rafael. Emery County Economic Director, Marlin Eldred welcomed the group and the speakers, Carl Pollastro from Interwest Mining and Chuck Semborski from Energy West. Pollastro is the director of technical services and project development for Interwest and Semborski is the manager of geology and environmental services for Energy West. Pollastro stated that they are going through the permitting process for the Rilda Canyon facilities.
Energy West isn't looking at expanding operations at the Deer Creek Mine, but maintaining what they already have as they develop the Mill Fork lease. Their main commitment is to PacifiCorp to supply quality fuel to the power plants since at least 60 percent of the power plant budget goes toward fuel cost. Electrical generation is vital to everyone and Deer Creek Mine plays a significant role in the fuel that produces that generation. Additional fuel requirements beyond Deer Creek production is purchased from individual contracts with other mining operations.
Pollastro described himself as a third generation coal miner and stated that coal mining has changed rapidly from the peaks in the late 1970s to early 1980s where small family owned mines turned into high volume longwall operations. In the 80s the mining industry employed approximately 6,000 people and now there are only 1,700-1,800 employees with five active mining companies and nine coal mines; this will decline to eight coal mines when Skyline Mine closes. Eighty-five percent of the coal mined in Utah is burned at the plants in Utah and western Nevada.
"In 1999, we were successful in obtaining the Mill Fork tract and we are currently working toward its development. We estimate 15 years of life in the Mill Fork tract. Four million ton of coal per year from Deer Creek Mine supplies Huntington Plant and supplements Hunter Plant. Three million ton per year is burned at Huntington Plant and 4.8 million at Hunter Plant," said Pollastro.
Pollastro described the current situation at Deer Creek Mine where they are beginning development into the Mill Fork tract. It will take 14 miles of underground travel to reach the farthest extent of the new lease. "In slow moving vehicles, at 20 m.p.h; men and materials will have to be transported as well as the coal being brought back out along the belt line to the Deer Creek portal. In order to split the travel time we are proposing portal facilities to include a ventilator fan, pump facilities, and a substation in North Rilda Canyon, also a bath house, storage, sediment control, warehouse facility, staging area and parking area. This will result in a 40 percent reduction of travel time," said Pollastro. The coal will still be brought out the Deer Creek portal along 12 miles of belt line. There is an estimated two year supply of coal left in the Deer Creek lease before moving longwall production in the Mill Fork lease.
Pollastro described the undertaking so far as a cooperative effort between the agencies and they have worked well with the BLM, UDOGM, USFS, SITLA, DWR, US Fish and Wildlife and various water users with holdings in Rilda Canyon. North Emery Water Users Special Service District, Emery County Commissioners, cattlemen associations, Castle Valley Special Service District, North Emery Water Users Special Service District, planning and zoning and the Emery County road department have all been involved.
Pollastro said they want to continue to provide services and be good citizens in the county.
Semborski commented on a question from the audience about the Cottonwood lease. He said they nominated the lease and have done all the needed baseline work including exploration drilling. He described the situation as being congested with complex rules and regulation requirements before any mining could take place.
Semborski said the development in Rilda Canyon will improve the access dramatically by using the northern canyons of the lease. Historic mining of Rilda Canyon took place in the 50s with four mines in the canyon over the years. The abandoned mine reclamation act of the 80s resulted in the reclamation of the old LeRoy mine which is the proposed setting for the new facilities.
Water concerns have always been concerns in Rilda Canyon which led to Energy West building a water treatment plant for North Emery Water Users Special Service District in the early 1990s near the Huntington Plant. They contributed $1.5 million to this project. Semborski said they are tied to the water company and have a 25 year commitment to maintain the water. The new Rilda facilities will be located just below the North Emery Springs, but special water mitigation stipulation with Castle Valley Conservancy District are also underway for protection of Little Bear Springs. The new facilities would constitute a total disturbance of approximately 10 acres with five acres already having been disturbed through prior mining operations at that site.
Semborski described the full reclamation project they were involved in with the Des-Bee-Dove mine operation which was completed in June of 2003. He said they will be returning to the reclamation site to hand plant 12,000 plants there as part of the reclamation project. The proposed Rilda facilities would also be fully reclaimed to the original setting when its usefulness was complete.
Semborski said all the production crews would utilize the Rilda facility. Seventy five percent of the traffic will enter at Rilda and 25 percent would still use the Deer Creek portal for maintenance of the belt and a shop facility.
The presenters were asked if Deer Creek would be adding any employees during this transitional time, but Pollastro said they will maintain their level at 340 employees. Pollastro said there are still some environmental issues to be addressed with the plans at Rilda and the agencies are tussling with the need for an environmental analysis or an environmental impact study. Pollastro said they like to talk about their plans and they want to make sure it becomes a reality so they can continue to provide employment here in the county.