The BLM has released tacit approval in the draft environmental impact statement on the Alton Coal Tract Lease. This document concerns the impact of leasing 3,576 acres of federal land in Kane County, expanding current mining operations from private lands to public. The land in question is .10 mile south of Alton and 2.9 miles east of U.S. Route 89. The tract of land is in the BLM Kanab Field Office planning area.

The draft EIS is not a decision document. It informs the public of the BLM’s final decision on whether to held a competitive lease sale for the tract and, in the event that the BLM decides to offer the tract for competitive leasing, what special stipulations would be attached to the lease. The EIS is released to inform the public of the potential impacts associated with implementing actions.

The BLM’s proposed action would include allowing mining on the 3,576, of which 2,280 acres are federal surface and mineral estate, and 1,296 acres are split estate. Recoverable portions of coal reserves would be mined over approximately 25 years using surface mining methods where the depth is approximately 200-300 feet, and using underground methods where the depth of overburden exceeds approximately 200-300 feet.

It is estimated that approximately two million tons of coal per year would be mined once topsoil stockpiling and initial overburden removal has occurred. Reclamation would be concurrent with mining over the course of the estimated 25 year mine life and would be followed by a potential ten year reclamation and revegetation monitoring period.

On federal land, coal leases can be valuable for a number of entities. Royalties and funds go into the treasury, and also some are split with the state and subsequently, distributed back to communities that are impacted by the mining. Area jobs are also created.

Comments will be accepted for 60 days following the EPA’s publication of notice of availability in the Federal Register. All comments, postmarked by January 6, 2012 on the draft EIS will be considered in the preparation of the final EIS, currently scheduled for release summer 2012.