Peabody Energy plans take shape in western Routt County

Road improvements, gravel pit go before county officials

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— Peabody Energy hasn’t given the final approval for company officials here to build the new Sage Creek Coal Mine that is intended to gradually replace Twenytmile Coal Co.’s Foidel Creek Mine in western Routt County. However, the management team is working on steps to create the new Sage Creek underground portal.

Mike Ludlow, project manager for Peabody Sage Creek mining, senior environmental specialist Scott Cowman and environmental consultant Jay James appeared before the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday seeking permission to expand the existing Red Rock Gravel Pit south of Hayden. They plan to rely on Red Rock to supply sufficient scoria road base to make the necessary road improvements for the new mine.

“We have all of the state permits in place for Sage Creek, but Peabody has yet to give the go-ahead on the mine,” Ludlow said after the meeting.

Mine officials said in July 2010 that they thought they might be mining at Sage Creek as soon as summer 2011.

The county Road and Bridge Department is consulting closely with mine officials on improvements to Routt County Road 27 to support as many as 340 truck trips per day hauling coal from the new mine south to an existing railroad loading facility at Foidel Creek. The coal seam at Foidel Creek is running too deep for mining operations, and the new Sage Creek Mine would tap into the same seam in an area where it is closer to the surface.

Road improvements are expected to cost Peabody several million dollars, county senior road engineer Heather McLaughlin has said. The improvements would include a 200-foot-diameter roundabout at the intersection of county roads 27 and 27A that would allow heavily loaded trucks to roll continuously while reducing the risk of accidents for general traffic.

The Red Rock Gravel Pit on C.R. 53 is 14.5 miles from the road construction area and is operated in collaboration between the mine and the county. The special-use permit application for the expansion of 23.5 acres from about 42 acres was before the commissioners this week for a conceptual review, and no vote was taken. Mining could begin this spring and continue in three phases until 2021.

Cowman expects Routt Coun­­ty to continue to crush and stockpile some of the material. Pea­­body would have rights to a small percentage of the crushed material.

Gravel mining will require only bulldozers, backhoes and a front-end loader to load gravel into road-legal trucks, he added.

The owners of the only property adjacent to the gravel pit have said they don’t object to the gravel pit expansion as long as the mine uses dust-suppression measures, Cowman said. According to the Routt County Assessor’s Office database, the owners of that adjacent property are William and Nance Brandenburg. A phone number could not be located for the Brandenburgs.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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