Residents with opinions on the proposed expansion of GCC Energy’s King II coal mine in southwest La Plata County will have a chance to weigh in at an open house Thursday in Hesperus.
Preparing for its coal reserves to run out, GCC Energy, which has operated the King II coal mine near Hesperus since 2007, asked the Bureau of Land Management in 2018 for a lease to expand the mine by 2,462 acres, opening an estimated 12 million tons of coal.
It’s expected that if the expansion is ultimately approved, the life of the King II coal mine could be extended at least another 20 years.
The BLM, recommending approval of the expansion, earlier this month released an environmental analysis that looks at the supposed impacts of extending the life of the mine, which the public can comment on until Aug. 5.
A public hearing was held Wednesday in Dolores, but local officials and some members of the public said a meeting needed to be held closer to the community most impacted by the mine operation.
Thursday’s open house will run from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Breen Community Building, 15300 Colorado Highway 140.
According to the BLM, the environmental assessment was part of a pilot project to streamline the National Environmental Policy Act, a directive of the Trump administration to support and speed up the development of coal leasing and permitting.
“The Trump administration is committed to creating jobs and producing energy safely,” Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said earlier this month. “We look forward to receiving public comments on a proposal that would extend the life of this mine and sustain jobs for another 22 years.”
GCC Energy’s parent company is Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua, a multimillion dollar international cement manufacturer based in Chihuahua, Mexico. Since the company took over the King II mine, it has averaged about 700,000 tons of coal per year, which is used mainly for cement production.