According to the Bureau of Land Management's coal expert, Max Nielson, Utah coal production is about to jump upward again, with three companies applying to develop new mines.

Coastal States Energy of Houston, Texas, hopes to develop a gigantic mine in Sevier County on BLM land called the Quitchupah Tract. "If this one leases, it'll probably be the biggest one we've ever leased" in the BLM region, he said.Located six miles west of Emery in Emery County, it would be adjacent to the company's SUFCO Mine. "It could be mined either from their operation or from a new portal."

About 9,900 acres would be leased, covering 8 million tons of recoverable coal.

The SUFCO Mine is one of Utah's most productive, at more than 2 million tons a year. Much of the coal goes to Utah Power & Light power plants.

Coastal States wants the additional reserves to meet contract commitments and so it will have the flexibility to find new markets, Nielson said.

Cyprus-Plateau Mining wants to open a new mine at the Castle Valley Ridge Tract, 1,826 acres and 9 million tons of recoverable reserves, located in Carbon County. The company has another mine in that vicinity, near Wattis.

Beaver Creek Coal Co. hopes to open a new mine adjacent to its Trail Mountain Mine near Orangeville, Emery County. This is a 765-acre tract, with 4.2 million tons of recoverable coal.

If these plans are approved, and each results in a separate mine, Utah coal mines will go from 16 to 19. On Nov. 17, BLM national officers recommended that the Quitchupah Tract be leased, and

the regional coal team ratified the recommendation.

"So we are kind of in the final stages of preparing a lease sale, and we anticipate that being in February or March of 1989," Nielson said. The remaining two applications are not as far advanced.