Twentymile earns award | SteamboatToday.com

Twentymile earns award

Coal company recognized by state for reclamation projects

— Twentymile Coal Company west of Steamboat Springs has won its second state reclamation award in nine months.

Twentymile was recognized this month for its work in preserving historic buildings in West Routt County, and dealing with the potential for ground settling as it begins to expand its large underground Foidel Creek Mine into its northern division. The coalmine has already used crushed rock to raise a section of Union Pacific railroad track in anticipation that the land beneath it will settle or “subside” between 3 and 40 inches as the mine expands underground operations this winter.

The award was presented to Twentymile Coal by the state Division of Minerals and Geology and the Colorado Mining Association. The award was accepted by Tewntymile’s Environmental Manager Rick Mills at a ceremony in Denver.

Twentymile is a division of RAG American Coal Holding, Inc.

“We’ve begun to take care of the anticipated subsidance before we actually begin mining,” Mills said.

Mills and the mine received a reclamation award in January for re-vegetation work on the now defunct Eckman Mine No. 1, which operated from the early 1970s until 1989.

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The Eckman mine produced approximately 44 million tons of coal for electric utilities. Reclamation work began at the mine in the 1970s and was completed in 1991.

Mills said the way in which the reclaimed mine land was re-contoured, and some of the vegetation that was planted, has provided structure and cover for sharptailed grouse.

Rick Hoffman, a wildlife researcher with the Department of Wildlife in Fort Collins, said there are as many as 50 grouse leks, or breeding areas on the reclaimed Eckman mine, many more than existed before it was mined.

Mills said that at Foidel Creek, Twentymile had previously mined out what it refers to as the western mining division and has just finished the eastern mining division. It will begin pushing into the northern mining division this winter.

The railroad is the lifeblood of the mine it’s the only practical way to get the coal to market. Twentymile hired Chris Breeds of Subterra, a Washington company, to generate subsidance models. The models are used to predict the degree to which the overlaying soils will subside once the mining tunnels are in place. In addition to studying the impacts on the railroad, Breeds looked at surrounding rock outcroppings and even several old ranch buildings in the area.

Mills said mine employees would go into the field on a daily basis to confirm whether the subsidance forecasts were accurate.

By raising the railroad track in advance, the mine will avoid the necessity of doing that work in the dead of winter, Mills said.

Michael Long, director of the state’s division of minerals and geology, praised Twentymile’s ethical approach to doing business.

“Their commitment to environmental protection and restoration reflects a ‘do it right’ attitude that truly benefits the citizens of our state,” Long said.

Twentymile President Bill Ivy said his company has a strong commitment to restoration of the environment.

“We can indeed keep the lights on in Colorado while we simultaneously protect the land which we temporarily use,” Ivy said.