Lila Canyon Coal Mine
This page was last updated on September 26, 2020.
(This is a work in progress; research continues.)
The coal being mined by the Lila Canyon mine was previously known as early as 1987 as the Kaiser South Lease. The lease block is adjacent to and immediately south of the "Kaiser Coal Horse Canyon Lease."
In August 1998, UtahAmerican Energy Incorporated (UEI), a subsidiary of Murray Energy, subleased the 5,500 acres of the former Geneva coal mine in Horse Canyon from Intermountain Power Agency (IPA), which itself had purchased the mine from the bankrupt Kaiser Coal Company. At the same time, UtahAmerican Energy began the permitting process to allow development of the adjacent Lila Canyon Tract, located south of Horse Canyon, accessing the south portions of the same coal veins. The Lila Canyon permitting process became much more active in April 1999, and the formal Technical Analysis was completed in July 1999.
September 15, 1998
IPA and UtahAmerican Energy announced in a joint statement that the two companies would begin development of the Lila Canyon coal mine on 5,605 acres of coal leases. (Sun Advocate, September 15, 1998)
In the early stages of the permitting process, the Lila Canyon mine was known as the Lila Canyon Extension of the Horse Canyon mine. During the later years that the Geneva mine in Horse Canyon was in production, one of the three ventilation openings for the mine was in Lila Canyon. "The intake air enters the mine through the mine openings at the north and south portals in Horse Canyon and at the opening at Lila Canyon. Middle entries are used to circulate the fresh air and the outer entries are used as returns to the main entries and district entries." (Don Butler, February 1961)
Under UtahAmerican Energy ownership the permitting process continued with hopes to begin actual mine development during late 2007 or 2008. UEI stated that they plan on a daily capacity of 13,000 tons, delivering coal to a loadout facility served by a new spur to be built from Union Pacific's former D&RGW mainline, just three miles away.
In September 2000, the Intermountain Power Agency sold the Horse Canyon mine to UtahAmerican Energy Incorporated (UEI), a subsidiary of Murray Energy. As of early 2007, UEI continued to hold the Horse Canyon mine for a potential reopening of the mine.
To address environmental concerns and to preserve the scenic beauty of the Book Cliffs, UEI planned on constructing the loadout facility out in the valley, with long underground horizontal shafts reaching under the foot of the cliffs and into the coal seam. Ventilation shafts were planned to be on top of the cliffs, well away from any encroaching scenic vista.
The initial mining plan for the Lila Canyon mine was submitted in December 2000, and approved in July 2001 by federal regulators, and in March 2002 by state regulators. In August 2002 the approvals were put on hold while law suits questioned the environmental aspects of the mining plan. The mining plan was resubmitted in April 2004, addressing the environmental concerns. The permitting process continued through late 2007, with law suits and appeals blocking the final approval. The final appeals were rejected in September 2010, allowing development of the Lila Canyon mine to proceed.
In August 2007 six miners were trapped at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah, of which Murray Energy independent operating subsidiary UtahAmerican Energy had been a part-owner for 12 months. (Read the Wikipedia article about the Crandall Canyon Disaster)
In a request in late 2007 to delay the permitting process to allow further study of endangered organisms in the soil, an environmental group asked a federal judge to delay the development work by UtahAmerican Energy on the Lila Canyon mine. The proposed mine was described as:
The Lila Canyon mine, located on the west slope of the Book Cliffs, south of Price, is one of the last high-quality coal reserves in the state, UtahAmerican said. It is in an area identified as having potential wilderness characteristics, but is not a congressionally designated wilderness area. Like other Utah mines, the Lila Canyon coal seam reaches depths of 2,500 feet, but there would only be longwall mining done underground, not retreat mining - the type of mining done at Crandall Canyon where coal supports are cut away causing a roof to fall. The Bureau of Land Management estimates there are 27 million tons of coal that could be recovered in the mine's first phase and UtahAmerican project manager Jay Marshall said there could be up to 52 million tons recoverable in later phases. Marshall said the company wants to start clearing the land to build the surface facilities at the entrance of the mine, but it would likely be January before work could start and take at least 18 months to complete. If the surface work doesn't begin before February, restrictions to protect eagles, antelope and bighorn sheep habitat would push the start back to July. Ray Petersen, public lands director for Emery County, said in an affidavit that the mine would help the "desperate economic situation in Emery County." Lila would employ 220 miners when it is fully operational, although just a few dozen would do the preparatory work. The company would pay about 9 percent in royalties on the mined coal, half of which would go to state, with 40 percent of that going to Emery County. (Salt Lake Tribune, November 16, 2007)
The following items come from the Utah Coal Report for 2009, published in 2010:
After over 10 years of permitting, the Lila Canyon mine produced its first coal in June of 2010. Full production is still several years away, but the added tonnage, even during development, will help offset lower production at other existing mines.
The new Lila Canyon mine produced its first coal in spring 2010 while performing longwall development work. Full production is not expected to start until 2014.
Total coal production at Lila Canyon for 2010 is estimated at 45,000 tons, with first longwall coal scheduled for 2014.
The new Lila Canyon mine is located south of Horse Canyon in the Book Cliffs coalfield in Emery County. In spring of 2010, the company finished construction on 1200-foot long rock slopes and began development work in the Sunnyside coal bed, producing 6600 tons of coal in the second quarter of 2010. Development work will continue until about 2014 when the first longwall mining is scheduled to begin. Coal production during the first few years of development will total about 45,000 tons in 2010 and about 190,000 tons in 2011. By the time the mine is at full capacity, it could employ up to 200 people and produce up to 4.5 million tons of coal per year. Coal will be mined from federal leases where the merged upper and lower Sunnyside bed is about 13 feet thick. Between 26 and 40 million tons of recoverable coal are under lease, with recovery largely dependent on the cutting height of the equipment that will be used. Approximately 50 million tons of additional federal coal is available to the south of current leases.
"Miners entered the coal seam in June 2010, producing 72,000 tons for the year" (Utah Coal Report 2010)
"Lila Canyon went into first production in the second quarter of 2010 and produced 72,283 tons during the rest of that year, followed by 102,393 tons in the first three quarters of 2011." (Barry Cassell, "BLM clears UtahAmerican for exploration at major new coal mine," December 13, 2011)
December 9, 2011
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management approved the final environmental assessment report for UtahAmerican Energy's Lila Canyon mine. Longwall mining operations were planned to start in fall 2014.
The following comes from the 2011 Utah Coal Report, published in 2012:
In spring of 2010, the company finished construction on 366-m (1200 ft) long rock slopes and began development work in the Sunnyside coal bed, producing 65,000 t (72,000 st) of coal in 2010. Development work continued in 2011, with total coal production reaching 142,000 t (157,000 st), and for 2012 coal production is expected to total about 272,000 t (300,000 st). By the time the mine is at full capacity, the timing of which depends on a recovering coal market, it could employ up to 200 people and produce up to 4.1 million t (4.5 million st) of coal per year. Coal will be mined from federal leases where the merged upper and lower Sunnyside bed is about 4.0 m (13 ft) thick. Between 24 and 36 million t (26 and 40 million st) of recoverable coal are under lease, with recovery largely dependent on the cutting height of the equipment that will be used. Approximately 45 million t (50 million st) of additional unleased federal coal is available to the south of current leases.
The following production figures for the Lila Canyon mine come from the Utah Geological Survey, "Utah Mining Report, 2018":
- 2010 -- 72,000 tons
- 2011 -- 157,000 tons
- 2012 -- 304,000 tons
- 2013 -- 257,000 tons
- 2014 -- 335,000 tons
- 2015 -- 350,000 tons
- 2016 -- 1,587,000 tons
- 2017 -- 1,638,000 tons
- 2018 -- 2,816,000 tons
- 2019 -- 3,200,000 tons
- During 2017-2019, Lila Canyon was the third largest producing mine in Utah, after Sufco, and Skyline
October 16, 2020
Emery County Coal Resources -- Ownership of the Lila Canyon mine passed from UtahAmerican Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Murray Energy, to a new company, Emery County Coal Resources, a subsidiary of American Consolidated Natural Resources, the reorganized Murray Energy company which had declared bankruptcy in 2019. (Documents on file at the Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining; the official date may be August 24, 2020, when the request was sent to DOGM)
Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining, Coal Permit Files for Permit C0070013, Horse Canyon/Lila Canyon -- Includes regular inspection reports to current date