Montana Public Radio

Rosebud Coal Mine

Montana Mine Expansion Advances Amid Owner's Bankruptcy

Nov 30, 2018
A federal judge in Great Falls Friday said the Trump administration failed to consider the environmental effects of its decision to resume coal sales from federal lands that the Obama administration stopped.
USDA NRCS

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A major coal mine expansion in southeastern Montana received a preliminary green light from state and federal officials on Friday even as the mine's owner remains tied up in bankruptcy proceedings with plans to sell the property.

Officials released an 800-page environmental study of Westmoreland Coal Co.'s expansion of the Rosebud Mine that clears the way for a final decision in coming months.

Colstrip coal mine.
Amy Martin

Westmoreland Coal Company, the Colorado-based owner of three coal mines in Montana, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in federal court on Tuesday.

A Coal Mine in the Powder River basin.
U.S. Geological Survey

We're getting perspective now on last week's news that the U.S. Interior Department said it had approved a major coal mine expansion in Montana. It caused the stock of the mining company involved to temporarily spike.

Six days later, Interior rescinded its statement, saying no expansion was approved, and the original approval statement was the result of “internal miscommunication.”

Power plant at Colstrip, MT.
Beth Saboe / MontanaPBS

Tonight on MontanaPBS, producer Beth Saboe takes a look at the uncertain future of the town of Colstrip, as big changes are rocking the coal industry around the world and in Montana. She joins us now to talk about her film, "The Future of Colstrip."

Kevin and Marti Murphy and their children at their home in Colstrip.
Amy Martin

Kevin Murphy has worked at the Rosebud coal mine for 15 years, running a bulldozer which works in tandem with a dragline – a machine as big as a ship with a giant boom that extends 300 feet up into the air. The dragline perches on the lip of an open pit, scraping away hundreds of feet of rocky soil to reveal the black seam of compressed prehistoric peat that humans have been burning for fuel for millennia.