CMA-News-Release-LogoDecember 9, 2015

Contact: Stuart Sanderson


The Colorado Mining Association (CMA) issued the following statement during the public meetings scheduled by the U. S. Forest Service on the Colorado Roadless Rule.

CMA strongly supports the Forest Service proposal to reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception to the Colorado Roadless Rule as Alternative B: under the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Roadless Rule with the North Fork exception for limited road building and surface activity was the product of a multi-year public process involving extensive public comment and hearings throughout Colorado.   Three Administrations in Colorado, including those of current and former Colorado Governors Hickenlooper, Ritter and Owens, strongly supported the rule, which balances both environmental concerns with the need for jobs and economic development in rural Colorado.

The Colorado Roadless Rule has received strong bi-partisan support.   In 2005, the Colorado General Assembly enacted legislation establishing a Task Force which held hearings around state to develop the proposed rule.   The state process revealed that many of the areas classified by the federal rule as “roadless” were not pristine; but had for long periods of time contained roads accessed by mining, grazing, and recreational vehicles. The final Colorado Roadless Rule approved by the Forest Service classified a total of 4.2 million acres as roadless and off limits to mineral and other development. It also gave special protection to 1.2 million acres while placing less than 20,000 acres in the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception (“the North Fork exception”).

            The North Fork exception allows for the building of temporary roads in limited portions of the Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre-Gunnison National Forest in order to continue underground coal mining in an area where coal mining has been a mainstay of the local economy for more than a century. These temporary roads would support coal exploration activities, as well as underground mining operations including ventilation of mine gases required for the safety of workers. Existing Federal and State law, as well as the Colorado rule, require the restoration of all roads to original condition upon completion of mining.

Many organizations, including environmental interests, participated in the original drafting of the rule and supported the North Fork exception, recognizing the importance of underground coal mining in the North Fork Valley. The reinstatement of the North Fork exception does not approve any mine plan, it simply responds to the Court Order to reassess alleged deficiencies in adoption of the Colorado Roadless rule, an order which anti-coal groups actively sought.

The opposition we hear now is not about temporary roads, it is about stopping the development of coal resources by denying even limited access to coal-bearing lands.   That is wrong for Colorado and wrong for our nation.

Anti-coal groups also attempt to create misleading impressions about emissions of so-called greenhouse gases (GHG) from the mines; yet as the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement clearly states, the estimated maximum possible annual GHG emissions for North Fork Coal Mining Area is approximately equivalent to 0.6% of 2013 total U.S. GHG emissions.   When compared with worldwide emissions, the percentage of GHGs from this mine alone are infinitesimal.   Clearly, mining over the life of this operation will have no impact on climate.

Coal mining in the North Fork accounts for 723 jobs and overall revenues of $285.5 million dollars. The industry also purchased goods and services valued at $97.7 million dollars. The destruction of these jobs and services, which anti-coal interests seek, would devastate and impoverish rural Colorado and deprive the state and the nation of a source of clean, affordable energy essential to meeting the requirements of the Clean Air Act.

CMA is an industry organization, founded in 1876, whose more than 900 members include the producers of coal and other minerals throughout Colorado and the west, as well as individuals and companies providing services and support to Colorado’s mining industry.