Good Life

Alaska state officials seek info about wind-blown dust at proposed coal mine

The leaseholder for a controversial coal mine proposed in Alaska's Matanuska Valley has withdrawn its application for a state air quality permit for a second time, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation and the company, Usibelli Coal Mine, Inc.

It's another delay for the Wishbone Hill project, where Usibelli hopes to soon produce up to 500,000 tons of coal a year. The longtime Alaska coal-mining company produces about 2 million tons per year, which it feeds to six electric power plants in the state and sells to Chile, Japan and South Korea.

The 800 acres for which Usibelli is currently seeking permits sit between Palmer and Sutton and, opponents say, within a mile of more than 100 homes. Since all the state's coal needs can be met by the Usibelli mine in Healy, farther to the north in Interior Alaska, the company says coal from Wishbone Hill would be sold overseas.

A Usibelli spokeswoman said Friday the company pulled the application because the state asked for more data on the possibility of windblown dust. Revamping the application is simply a necessary part of the "give and take" involved in the permitting process and doesn't indicate a loss of interest in the project, said Lorali Simon, Usibelli's external affairs manager.

But opponents of the strip mine, who have complained that blasting and strong local winds will kick up harmful coal dust and hurt nearby residents, say the withdrawn application shows the mining company is worried it can't meet the state's clean air requirements, said Jeremiah Millen, director of Friends of Mat-Su, a group focused on land use in the Matanuska and Susitna valleys.Read the full story at