Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | February 17, 2009

Environmental lawyer Sanders says U.S. Department of Forestry seeking comments on planned mine under Daniel Boone National Forest by Southfork Coal Company.

The Daniel Boone National Forest is seeking public comment concerning a proposed coal lease for federally-owned coal on the Stearns Ranger District. The Southfork Coal Company has submitted an application for coal extraction under lease on 64.5 acres of land in the Kentucky counties of McCreary and Whitley.

The Southfork Coal Company submitted their application for federal coal extraction in 2001 with the Bureau of Land Management, the agency that oversees all mineral leasing on federal lands. A BLM Geologic and Engineering Report estimates there is 150,000 tons of federal recoverable coal out of 311,800 tons in place in the newly proposed lease area.

These recoverable reserves would be mined, along with approximately 95,000 tons remaining in the existing federal lease.  An interdisciplinary team from the BLM, Forest Service and Office of Surface Mining will prepare a land use analysis and environmental assessment to address the Southfork Coal Company application.

The Southfork Coal Company is proposing to mine the Jellico coal seam with conventional mining equipment, utilizing underground room and pillar mining methods. An already existing federal coal lease occurs in the proposed lease area, along with additional leases on nearby private land. All newly proposed mine portals, access roads, sediment ponds and other surface facilities that would be used to mine the coal occur on private lands.

The Federal government maintains a policy of encouraging private industry to explore and develop federal minerals to help satisfy local and national needs. The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 as amended authorizes the competitive coal leasing process. When a coal lease is issued, it grants a lessee exclusive rights to explore and develop the coal resources in their lease area.

The Forest Service decision-making process provides opportunities for interested parties to give their ideas and opinions about resource management. This input is important in helping the Forest Service to identify resource needs, which will shape the alternatives evaluated and lead to the formation of a decision.

The public may submit comments to the Forest Service concerning the coal lease proposal by three methods:

  • Electronic email to
  • Verbal comments to Project Coordinator Patty Beyer at (906) 226-1499.  
  • Written comments to Project Coordinator Patty Beyer, USDA Forest Service, 115 South Lakeshore Dr. Suite E, Marquette, MI 49855.

Public comments or issues must be submitted no later than March 13, 2009. Questions concerning the project should be directed to Project Coordinator Patty Beyer at the above phone number or by email at

An environmental assessment is expected to be completed sometime in the spring. It will be available on the Daniel Boone National Forest website and upon public request.


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