By Tom Lutey, Billings Gazette
Signal Peak mine has been ordered to stop mining federal coal at least until a study can be done to determine the environmental impacts of burning the fuel.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy has vacated federal approval allowing Signal Peak to mine federal coal at its underground mine 40 miles north of Billings.
Signal Peak is Montana’s only underground coal mine. It had asked for permission to keep mining federal coal a while longer.
The court had previously concluded that Signal Peak’s coal mining approval was based on bad permitting. Molloy’s order comes as Signal Peak prepared for a March expansion into 900,000 tons of federal coal, a first step in a planned 175 million-ton expansion. The company will now relocate its longwall mining equipment into a pocket of state and private coal.