Interior Department Backtracks On Montana Mine Approval After Stocks Soar

Dec 28, 2017

One day after a beleaguered coal company’s stocks soared on news its Montana mine expansion project was approved by the federal government, the Interior Department now says that approval actually didn’t happen.

Blaming “internal miscommunication,” Interior spokesperson Heather Swift says a previous statement she gave to the Associated Press last week saying her department had approved a massive expansion of the Rosebud mine near Colstrip wasn’t true.

The Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Company owns the southeastern Montana mine. Westmoreland saw its shares plunge by over 93 percent this year. But after the incorrect information was released last week, the company had its biggest one-day rally in almost two decades.

At one point, stocks rose by nearly 50 percent.

Swift declined to answer questions from YPR on why her department waited six days to issue a correction or whether disciplinary action would be taken.

Swift now says the Interior Department is making steps towards a decision on the Rosebud mine expansion. They plan to release a draft environmental impact statement at some point in the future for a 45-day public comment period.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment on potential consequences for a government agency or employee making false statements that led to an increase in share prices.

Representatives for Westmoreland Coal Company were also unable to comment before deadline.

If approved, the Interior Department says the expansion could extend the Rosebud mine’s life for another two decades and potentially produce an additional 60 million tons of coal. The mine’s main customer is a coal-fired power plant in Colstrip.