The Montezuma County Commission supports a proposed expansion of the King II coal mine near Hesperus.
In a Jan. 23 letter, commissioners urged the Bureau of Land Management to approve the 952-acre expansion of King II’s mining lease area.
The project is going through a BLM environmental review process.
“Mineral resources have been crucial to the Southwest Colorado economy for over 100 years,” the commissioners said. “Access to mineral resources of all kinds expands the diversity of our regional economy.”
The coal mine has been operated by Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua (GCC Energy), of Mexico, since 2007. It employs 120 workers and subcontractors, and it produces almost 1 million tons of coal per year.
“A lot of the mine workers commute from Montezuma County,” said commissioner Keenan Ertel. “The mine supports a lot of other businesses, too.”
Most of the coal from the mine is used in regional cement plants, with some going to the coal-fired Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
The Montezuma County letter adds that mine is compatible with the BLM’s multiple use concept and is consistent with the BLM’s 2015 Resource Management Plan.
“As most of the operations of this mine are underground, the mining process would not be visible and would not impact surface resources in any significant manner,” the letter states.
“This is a relatively small mining operation and is clearly compatible in scale and character with other existing rural land uses within the area.”
However, residents near the mine have concerns about increased mine truck traffic. As part of a permit with La Plata County, GCC Energy has pledged $10 million for improvements to County Road 120, which is the gateway to the mine in Hesperus.
King II will be able to increase traffic to 100 trucks daily as road improvements are made over the next five years, with a maximum operational limit of 120 when the road project is complete.
“I know the impacts are very real, and I really hope we are striking a balance between the company’s right to operate and residents’ right to peacefully enjoy their property,” said La County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt.
Montezuma County commissioners are scheduled for a tour of the mine.
The Durango Herald contributed to this story.