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Official now says company has no plans to re-open Crandall Canyon Mine

Published: Saturday, Aug. 4 2012 4:39 p.m. MDT

Bridger Gilgen, far left, watches as his mother places flowers above the sculpture of her uncle Dale Black at the dedication of the Crandall Canyon Mine Memorial in Huntington, Emery County, Sept. 14, 2008.

Mike Terry , Deseret News

HUNTINGTON, Emery County — A Murray Energy Corp. official said Saturday the company has no current plans to re-open the Crandall Canyon Mine, where six miners and three rescuers remain buried from a collapse in 2007.

The announcement followed a report Friday citing a Bureau of Land Management official who said the company had expressed interest in re-opening at a future, unspecified time.

The company was asked Thursday to respond to information that Murray Energy was maintaining the lease and government officials believed the company intended to open the sealed mine at some future date.

The company responded in an email: "We have no comment at this time." 

 

But Murray Energy Corp. Vice President Rob Murray denied such plans Saturday in a response from the same email address.

"UtahAmerican has no plans whatsoever to re-open the mine, nor is it even under the slightest consideration," he said.

BLM minerals support supervisor Roger Bankert said Thursday that Murray Energy had expressed interest in mining at Crandall Canyon in the future. No date had been set or discussed, he said, and it remained unclear where on the mine property the mining would take place.

The mine and surrounding land encompasses 3,517 acres. Bankert said the company and subsidiary UtahAmerican/Genwal have maintained their lease, amounting annually to $3 per acre — or $10,551 — plus 1 percent of advance royalties, which represents what the company believes it can eventually recover.

BLM officials declined to disclose how much the 1 percent equaled, saying the number was proprietary to the company and based on future production estimates.

"The coal reserves in the area of Crandall Canyon and elsewhere are our assets, and we are simply doing what is required by law to maintain control of our assets — nothing more, nothing less," Murray said in his Saturday email.

He said the company's "no comment" response was to a request for an interview about the five-year anniversary of the mining tragedy. However, the request made by KSL in the email was for an "interview about the future of the mine and the company's intent," which government officials had indicated was to "eventually go back and mine there."

A state official suggested the decision to mine again at Crandall Canyon could be a difficult one for Murray Energy to weather.

“Basically it’s a grave,” said Daron Haddock, co-program manager for the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining. “There are people still buried there, so reopening that mine is certainly going to be an emotional issue, not just an economical issue.”

The company only has a few options for what it can do, Haddock said.

The options include actively mining on the property, continuing to pay advance royalties — for up to another 15 years — or relinquishing the lease.

If Murray Energy gave up its lease, Haddock said the state would potentially look toward reclamation – essentially returning the land to something approximating its pristine state.

E-mail: aadams@ksl.com

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