Montana Land Board to Weigh Leasing State-Owned Coal

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The state Land Board on Monday will have the chance to offer up for lease a vast tract of coal in the southeastern corner of the state.

Opponents of development are expected to call for a delay so they can further review the proposal.

The state controls more than a half-billion tons of coal beneath 9,500 acres of land near Ashland.

Adjacent parcels of privately owned coal were leased last week to the nation’s second largest coal mining company, Arch Coal Inc. of St. Louis. The move stepped up pressure on the five-member land board, made up of the state’s top five elected officials and chaired by Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

An appraisal in January said a mine could bring the state a bonus payment of at least $37 million and $1.4 billion in royalties in coming decades.