Arch Coal Applies For Permit To Mine Otter Creek As Coal Export Action Continues

By scott parkin

Last night the story broke that Arch Coal has officially applied for its permits to strip mine Otter Creek in southeast Montana. The Otter Creek Mine would turn the area into a massive coal mining operation with new roads, rail lines and polluted waterways, should Arch be granted the permits.

Some details about Arch Coal and Otter Creek:

  • The proposed Otter Creek Mine, which sits between two national forests, would cover 7,639 acres of state, federal and private land in southeastern Montana.
  • Arch Coal owns the rights to mine approximately 1.5-billion tons of coal in southeastern Montana.
  • In March 2010, St. Louis-based Arch Coal agreed to pay the state of Montana $86 million plus future royalties to mine a half billion tons of coal on state-owned Otter Creek land.
  • The application calls for transporting the coal by rail, but the proposed Tongue River Railroad, which would transfer much of the coal from the Powder River Basin, has yet to gain federal approval. In June the Surface Transportation Board ordered the proposed railroad’s backers to submit a new application. The board also said it will conduct another environmental study of the line proposed between Miles City and Ashland.

This news comes out after two days of successive occupations and sit-in’s at the Montana Capital in protest of the mining of Otter Creek and western coal exports at large. Ten have been arrested so far and the protests are expected to last eight days.

“This permit application just shows how important the actions that we’re doing here right now are in order to get citizens out to show mass opposition to Arch Coal’s plan to begin mining at Otter Creek,” said Lowell Chandler, one of the organizers of the Missoula-based Blue Skies Campaign’s protest.

The Coal Export Action has organized a diverse coalition of groups and individuals from around the nation, region (15 states at last count), and Montana, all of whom have converged in Helena to protest coal exports. The protests are aimed at stopping coal mined in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming from being exported through Oregon and Washington mega-ports to Asian energy markets.

It was also announced that a proposed terminal in Grays Harbor, WA was cancelled yesterday by RailAmerica, the company that proposed it.