Signal Peak Expansion Discussion Ends - | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Signal Peak Expansion Discussion Ends

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The Montana Department of Environmental Quality closed public comment on the proposed Signal Peak Expansion on Monday.

Area ranchers want to make sure the expansion will not affect the quality of the land. "The mine provides a lot of jobs, but agriculture is the biggest industry in this state, and it needs to be protected," Bull Mountain Rancher, Steve Charter said.

Charter has lived in the area his entire life, and during October 2012, Signal Peak officials proposed a 7,161 expansion of the underground coal mine. "Besides the long-wall mine, they are also proposing a strip mine, and we feel like we've sacrificed enough with the long-wall mine, and in my case, I don't think I would be able to ranch anymore if it was long-wall and strip mined," Charter said.

Steve said he's concerned the water quality and quantity might take a hit, if Signal Peak expands. Another concern is the effect mining could have on the ground. "Basically, it's like you're pulling out the rug from underneath he land. When that happens, you get subsidence cracks," Charter said.

Charter has a good relationship with mine officials, but he wants to make sure his livelihood is secure before moving forward. "These mines change hands, and change things. So, if it's not in the permit, in writing, we don't feel like we're fully protected," Charter said.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has until October 18th to grant a permit amendment, which would allow Signal Peak to move forward with the proposal. Or, the Montana DEQ will request Signal Peak to gather more research to ensure the environmental will not suffer.

Several calls were made to the Signal Peak Mine on Monday, but no one was available to comment on the topic.