Mine owner Signal Peak Energy recently leased federal coal on adjacent federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) parcels. The state-owned coal tracts are in the path of the 300-employee Bull Mountain mine and are key to the mine’s future. The Montana Land Board, made up of the state’s five top elected officials, including the governor, approved the request by the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to proceed with a coal lease application from Signal Peak Energy.

However, “leasing the state tract does not convey the right to mine, but would trigger the preparation and submission of a detailed mine operation and reclamation plan for joint environmental and permitting review by both DNRC and [the state Department of Environmental Quality],” said a DNRC report to the board submitted just before the May 21 meeting. “If approval were granted to continue the existing mining operation into the expansion area, the state would receive rental and royalty revenue for the Common School trust.”