Sydney, Australia- based Riversdale Alaska has been awarded a state coal lease in the Chickaloon area. Riversdale was the high bidder for the almost ten thousand acres of potential coal bearing lands in the Matanuska- Susitna Borough, paying a more than 3 million dollars bonus for the lease.
The land is owned by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and leased by the Authority’s Lands Trust Office. Greg Jones is the Lands Trust Office executive director.
“We’ve signed an agreement with Riversdale that gives them the right to explore, and if they are able to find a resource, find the coal, and get permits, it allows them to mine those lands subject to all applicable state, federal and local permits. We are at this point, along for the ride, in hopes that they are successful.”
Riversdale has focused on the Chickaloon leases, because the company considers Chickaloon area coal to be a high quality, low sulphur, coking coal. According to Riversdale’s own publications, the Chickaloon project is desirable too, because of the proximity of a deep water port and rail access to that port.
Jones says it is now up to Riversdale to determine if conditions are right for a mine.
“We will be monitoring it closely. We’ll be assuring that they meet the conditions of our lease, which requires them to meet all state and federal regulations. The ball is in Riversdale’s court, to meet all of those criteria to determine if they can develop a mine. ”
Riversdale Alaska manager Russell Dan was not available for comment Tuesday, but Michelle Johnson, who is handling public information for the project, says “intent to explore” permits have been granted, and the company is planning “aggressive” baseline studies on the area for the next two years. Improvements on roads to the coal leases could be the first step, she says.
The state Department of Natural Resources is in the process of weighing an exploration permit for Riversdale according to coal regulatory program manager Russell Kirkham. Public comments on the permits are being taken through June 18.
The Chickaloon coal leases sparked opposition some years ago, when the Mental Health Lands Trust Office leased them to a Canadian company, Public outcry against coal exploration near Chickaloon may have prompted the company to withdraw it’s plans to mine there.
Some area organizations, such as the Mat Valley Coalition and Friends of Mat Su, are is opposed to coal mining, based on health concerns related to coal dust, and because of environmental degradation resulting from mining.
Greg Jones, with the Mental Health Trust Lands Office , says the agreement with Riversdale was signed in March, although the deal has not been made public yet. Jones says the Mental Health Trust will not see much financial benefit from the lease agreement unless a successful mine is developed. In that case, the Trust gains a five percent royalty on the resources extracted.