PacRim Coal, LP – Chuitna Coal Project
The Chuitna Coal Project is being developed by PacRim Coal, LP, as a surface coal mine with a
“Backfill and Revegetate As We Go” Strategy
to recover an estimated 300 million tons of ultra-low sulfur, low mercury, low ash coal.
Bulk coal samples were obtained from three test pits excavated in the early 1980’s to help evaluate the coal deposit. The above video illustrates natural vegetation regrowth at one of those pits, known as Starkey’s Pit.
About the Project
The Chuitna Coal Project is being designed by PacRim Coal, LP, as a surface coal mine to recover an estimated 300 million tons of sub-bituminous, ultra-low sulfur, low mercury, low-ash coal (electric power coal). The project is located on the west side of Cook Inlet, approximately 12 miles northwest of Tyonek and 45 miles west of Anchorage. The mine is 6 stream miles above the main stem of the Chuit. Permitting for the project restarted in 2006 and is currently in the advanced permitting phase. Production is designed to average 12 million metric tons per year. Major components of the Chuitna Coal Project are the Mine Area, Infrastructure, and Port Facilities.
Coal from the Chuitna Coal Project is sub-bituminous, ultra-low sulfur, low mercury, and low ash coal. It can be mixed with other coals that have higher sulfur, mercury, and ash content to reduce emissions. This coal is sometimes called “blending” or “compliance” coal.
Since the original design of the mine in the 1980’s, the project has undergone several infrastructure design changes to reduce the potential impacts. The reconfiguration of the facilities alone has resulted in a 74% reduction in footprint and a 72% reduction in wetlands affected by the infrastructure.
Taxes and fees will be paid to the State of Alaska, Kenai Peninsula Borough, and Tyonek Native Corporation. The biggest beneficiary will be the Alaska Mental Health Trust, who expects production royalties in excess of $300,000,000 over the life of the mine. The royalties will be placed in a perpetual trust to fund Trust programs throughout Alaska for generations to come.
PacRim’s Goal: Maximize Coal Mine Benefits and Minimize Coal Mine Impacts.
Creating Jobs in Alaska
PacRim Coal expects to create 500 jobs during construction, 350 full-time jobs during mining, and an estimated 1,200 indirect jobs throughout the state.
PacRim is committed to qualified, local hire to help keep Alaskans working in Alaska.
- At the mine site: Heavy Equipment Operators, Laborers, Drillers, Blasters, Heavy Equipment Mechanics, Welders, Electricians, Foreman, Surveyors, Mine Engineers, Mine Safety Officers, Reclamation specialist, Hydrologist and Biologist, Permit Manager, Material Handling System Operators, Warehousemen.
- As part of the mine infrastructure: Camp Services (cooks, housekeeping, maintenance, camp manager), Conveyor Operators, Conveyor system maintenance personal, Electricians, Road maintenance crew (grader, loader, dump truck, brush equipment)
- At the port facilities: Laborers, Warehousemen, Stevedore Services (barge and ship berth), Tug boat captains, Coal stacker/reclaimer operators, Yard Conveyor operators, Light equipment operators (loader, bobcat, grader), Ship loader operator, Port manager, Coal laboratory
- General administration: Receptionist/Secretaries, Accountants, Purchasing Agents, Payroll clerk, Accounts payable clerk(s), Mine Superintendent, Department Heads (Engineering, operations, maintenance, finance, HR)
Environmental baseline information on water, air, soils, vegetation, cultural resources and wildlife was collected for the Chuitna Coal Project during permitting processes dating back to the mid 1980’s. This data was reviewed and approved through the Alaska Surface Coal Mining Control and Reclamation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Various state and federal permits were issued at that time. Significant additional baseline data has been collected to supplement the previous work. For example, we conducted a four year study from 2008 to 2011 to identify and count the salmon smolt in the streams in and around the mine area. This baseline information allows us to design the project to avoid or minimize impacts where practicable.
Chuitna Coal Project Timeline
Utilizing the Latest Technology
Tyonek Native Corporation and PacRim Coal entered into a road and conveyor easement agreement in 2009 when PacRim agreed to install a state of the art elevated conveyor for coal transport. The agreement allows a direct route from the mine to the port facilities, reducing stream crossings from 7 to 1. The conveyor towers are spaced up to 1200 feet apart, and the conveyor is elevated with a minimum ground clearance of 20 feet to allow wildlife to pass underneath. The conveyor has an electric motor drive with operating noise levels of about 50 to 55 dB or about a normal conversation level. Maintenance on the conveyor is performed from a cart that runs along the conveyor. The cart eliminates the need for new for a maintenance road running the entire length of the conveyor and reduces the need for new mine access road from about 12 miles to about 5 miles. The overall footprint of the conveyor and new mine access road has been reduced from 293 acres to about 66 acres.
Conveyor Maintenance Cart
Safe & Secure Equipment
Reclaim As We Go
The Chuitna Coal Mine’s plan is laid out in strips that will be mined annually. Reclamation of each strip begins immediately after it is mined. This means that as the mine moves forward, we will backfill the strip that was just mined with the materials necessary to reclaim the land to a near pre-mined state. Reclamation of the strips mined in years 1 and 2 will begin in year 3. By year 7 there will be more reclaimed lands than active mining lands. At the end of mining, the first two strips will have more than 20 years of vegetation regrowth.
Starkey’s Test Pit
Starkey’s Test Pit was excavated in 1981 to obtain a bulk coal sample for burn test analysis. After the excavation the pit was allowed to naturally regrow and a pond was left in its place. The photos below show the natural revegetation over more than 30 years.