Coal Mine Proposed in Alton, Public Meetings to be Held

Coal Mine Proposed in Alton, Public Meetings to be Held

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John Hollenhorst Reporting The federal government this week announced plans for public meetings on a proposal for a huge strip mine in Southern Utah.

In one of Utah's most out-of-the-way towns, the project revives an old dream that was dashed many years ago because of environmental concerns.

Alton is on a paved road, but just barely.

Kathie Mason, Alton Resident: "You don't get a lot of traffic, you can stand out in the middle of the road and no cars come by. And that's just kind of nice."

It's so off-the-beaten-track residents are proud of it.

Dustin Cox, Alton Resident: "Good place to raise a family. Real good place to raise a family."

It's the kind of place where the post office is in somebody's house.

Orval Palmer is the somebody, and he's thinking about coal.

Orval Palmer, Alton Postmaster: "Go mine it. But follow the rules."

The coal is under fields and slopes just outside of town. Some say there is enough coal to fuel Utah for 50 years.

Orval Palmer, Alton Postmaster: "Why should we be worried about the oil over there in Iraq when we got more power right here than anywhere in the world."

There's so much coal that some of it even extends right under the town, although nobody is seriously thinking about digging that part of it up.

The proposal is for a surface mine, a strip mine. Coal would be blasted, dug up and hauled away. Some residents welcome the economic development.

Dustin Cox: "People wouldn't have to leave for jobs...there are a lot of people that have to drive elsewhere for work."

The proposal has been around for decades. Studied and reported on by the BLM, it was killed years ago. That was mainly because it would have been visible from the pink cliffs of Bryce Canyon National Park.

The new proposal is in the same area but scaled down.

Rex Smart, BLM Manager, Kanab Field Office: "The preliminary look at it, we don't think it will be visible from Bryce Canyon."

Some residents say environmental concerns are manageable.

Orval Palmer: "They can do it if somebody will make them follow the rules and regulations that are in the book."

Others say they won't decide until they get answers on noise, dust and traffic.

Kathie Mason: "I really like living here because of the quiet town life."

The BLM promises answers from an Environmental Impact Study just getting under way.

The BLM plans several public scoping meetings about a month from now in Southern Utah and in Salt Lake City.

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