Following up on the Southern Utah News’ previous piece on the status of Alton coal, some county officials have offered some information to provide additional context for the state of the mine and the consequences of its survival or failure for the county as a whole.
A recent Utah state legislative report states, “the overall [Community Impact Board] is very significantly reduced from previous years due to several factors, including, but not limited to, restrictions by the current President’s administration on new leasing of federal lands for coal, natural gas and oil exploration and development of those minerals. The leasing of federal lands for the exploration of these minerals, as well as the actual production of these minerals from that land, is the source of revenue of the CIB that they loan and grant out.”
Bert Harris, with Kane County’s roads department, corroborated the report’s view, stating, “This current administration hasn’t been easy on them. They haven’t moved any coal for at least a few months … and the problems are much bigger than the local managers. It’s no fault of the local guys, it’s more like they couldn’t get the upper management to make the decisions that needed to be made, that wasn’t in their control.” Harris cited increased regulations lately, as well as a swing in the general sentiment against coal as a few of the reasons coal producers are struggling overall right now.
“I hate to see guys lose their jobs,” Harris says, “but unless someone comes in and really changes the direction of this thing I don’t see them ever really coming back … the local guys were pretty amenable to try anything in their power to work with the county, but as decisions went up the line, that’s when they start to hit snags finding approval to and resources to put into roads and operations.”
According to local county officials, there are still some operations underway to recover value from the mine, including reclaiming local ranch and farm land and restoring water and air quality regulations. One county source states that the Utah Oil, Gas and Mining division is continuing to work with Alton Coal LLC with these goals in mind, potentially working in support of mine operations.