Utah regulators want the owner of a coal mine near Price to address a highly flammable gas leaking into the atmosphere.
The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining has ordered UtahAmerican to plug about 10 holes or wells known as gob vents and reclaim the land.
The division said there’s no point in keeping them open if the company has relinquished the leases or mined out the coal.
The Centennial Mine, about 10 miles northeast of Price, hasn’t operated in more than a decade. UtahAmerican isn’t required to control the methane, unlike in the oil and gas industry.
It’s asking the division’s board to rescind the plugging order, the Salt Lake Tribune reports .
The company said the vents pose a low risk of ignition in a remote area and it might resume operations at the mine one day.
A resolution is possible. The associate director of the state agency, Dana Dean, said regulators are negotiating with UtahAmerican to allow the wells to stay open until Aug. 1 so another firm can capture the gas and possibly sell it.
A lawyer for UtahAmerican, Denise Dragoo, declined comment on the dispute. But in filings with the division, she said the wells are part of the approved mine plan.
The company contracted with an Orem-based firm to collect methane from the holes bored into the Centennial Mine. It’s not clear who would be paid if the gas is sold because the U.S. Bureau of Land Management owns the minerals under the land, and the surface area is in private ownership.
Dean contends the federal government owns the methane.
Mining began at the Centennial Mine in 1980, tapping minerals on both private and federal land. The dangers of operating in methane-infused deposits 3,000 below the surface forced the owners to stop. The equipment remains in place.
The law gives the mine operator wide latitude to put operations on hold as long as it maintains the surface facilities, Dean said.
UtahAmerican also owns West Ridge and Crandall mines, which aren’t operating, and Lila Canyon mine, which is. All are near Price.