evaluation topic coal exploration sites – offsite impacts and reclamation success
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Coal Exploration Sites – Offsite Impacts and Reclamation Success
Priscilla Burton, Steven Demczak, Pamela Grubaugh-Littig(*evaluation leader), and Susan White (Utah-Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining)
Dennis Winterringer (Office of Surface Mining, Western Regional Coordinating Center (OSM-WRCC))
REASON FOR TOPIC SELECTION
A fair amount of exploration activity occurs in Utah.
This aspect of the Utah Coal Program not reviewed before in the 6 years of the evaluation team’s existence.
– In the six areas disturbed by exploration activities, the team visited 13 holes that had been drilled.
– 3 for the Canyon Fuel Company LLC SUFCO Mine,
– 6 for the Canyon Fuel Company LLC Dugout Mine, and
– 4 for the Canyon Fuel Company LLC Skyline Mine.
Reclaimed exploration sites and adjacent areas were walked by the team to determine:– 1) Whether they caused offsite impacts, and – 2) Reclamation success.
Offsite impacts occur “outside the area authorized by the permit for conducting mining and reclamation activities.”
None of the exploration operations were major ones requiring a permit, therefore, no “permit boundaries.”
Offsite impacts could not be judged on the basis of occurrences outside the permit boundaries.
Excavations returned to the approximate original contour? (R645-202-241),
Revegetated to encourage prompt revegetation and recovery of a diverse, effective, and permanent vegetative cover? (R645-202-242),– Same seasonal variety native to the areas
disturbed? (R645-202-242.100),– Soil surface stabilized by vegetation cover?
All exploration holes, boreholes, wells, and other exposed underground openings reclaimed? (R645-202-243), and
All facilities and equipment removed? (except those for environmental monitoring, those for reduction or control of onsite and offsite effects, and those that will facilitate future coal mining and reclamation operations) (R645-202-244).
All drill-hole site disturbances were graded and seeded.*
Disturbances in the immediate area around the holes were small, in all cases about 0.6 acres or less.
*One exception - one drill-hole site at the Skyline Mine, graded but not seeded because the landowner wanted to build a cabin there.
In most instances, permittees used existing roads, improved for heavy equipment travel - in at least two instances the operators did create new roads (Dugout Mine and Skyline Mine).
Vegetation types varied considerably depending on the site elevation, slope aspect, and annual precipitation.
Vegetation ranged from dry sagebrush-dominated uplands (Dugout Mine) to wet mountain stream valley meadows (Skyline Mine) to high-elevation alpine tundra (SUFCO Mine).
Drought in Utah for at least the last year. No vegetation observed at one site.
Team concluded that 100 percent of the exploration areas(six of six), including new road segments, were not causing offsite impacts at the time of the field reviews and had not caused offsite impacts in recent times.
Operators successfully reclaimed most of the sites
Operators graded the disturbed area to approximate original contour.
Few noxious weeds (thistles) growing on the reclaimed areas - did not affect the overall reclamation success of the sites, because they were not dense and widespread.
Established vegetation was generally diverse on the reclaimed areas.
Drought has been impacting Utah over the past couple of years. No germination observed at SUFCO Mine (ACT/041/002-EX-99F).
Vegetation on the reclaimed areas was of the same seasonal variety native to the areas disturbed.
The team did not observe any rilling and gullying on the reclaimed areas that need to be repaired.
In all instances, the operators adequately reclaimed the drill holes.
No facilities or equipment on the disturbed areas.
FOLLOW-UP WORK IDENTIFIED
Nonnative plants identified in the seed mixtures for Federal surface lands and observed these plants growing on the sites. – Permanence and adaptability - questionable. – Use of nonnative species in seed mixtures
should be discussed with management at the Federal land management agency (U.S. Forest Service, Manti La Sal National Forest) through the interagency group.
900 feet of new road constructed by Canyon Fuel Company, LLC, Dugout Mine, (Hole DCH-5). – Some vegetation naturally established
itself in the road bed, soil berms along the edge of the road and water diversions indications operator had not reclaimed the road. Operator had no record.
– DOGM should contact the operator and require reclamation on this road.
One area may need to be reseeded if germination does not occur by Fall 2003. (Canyon Fuel Company LLC SUFCO Mine, ACT/041/002-EX99F, holes 01-7-1, 01-8-1, and 01-9-1).
SITE RECOMMENDATIONSPROGRAM RECOMMENDATIONS
Reseeding at SUFCO (EX-99F) if germination does not occur by Fall (holes 01-7-1, 01-8-1, and 01-9-1).
Dugout Mine, (Hole DCH‑5) needs to be reseeded under the coal mining rules if Utah‑DOGM approves a coal methane extraction application for the area or under the coal exploration rules if Utah‑DOGM disapproves the application.
One area needs to have a 900-foot segment of road
reclaimed (Dugout Mine, AM99H, road to hole G).
DUGOUT MINE (DCH-5)
FUTURE DEGAS WELL
DUGOUT MINE (G)
Establish procedures for conducting follow-up visits to all exploration sites to ensure that they have been successfully reclaimed.
Suggest to operators that they do surface roughening to increase the chances for revegetation success, and
Meet with management of the U.S. Forest Service (Manti La Sal National Forest) through the interagency meetings and request that they not approve the use of nonnative vegetation species in their seed mixes at mine sites.