Ramaco Carbon may receive millions from the Department of Energy to develop carbon products from coal mined in northern Wyoming.
The company proposed the first new coal mine in Wyoming in decades after acquiring the raw mineral rights in 2011, before the coal sector fell into a steep decline. In February, it announced its desire to change gears given the downturn and develop a carbon research facility and industrial park near Sheridan, fed by the proposed Brook Mine.
“This research has far-reaching implication for the coal, transportation and materials industries,” said CEO Randall Atkins. “This grant recognizes the world-changing potential of this research, and we’re excited to be involved in the work ahead at our Wyoming operations.”
The federal grant was awarded through the department’s vehicle technologies program and may offer up to $7 million for carbon fiber research, the company said in a press release Thursday afternoon.
The proposed Ramaco mine would be small in relation to the state’s coal sector, where the largest surface coal mines in the country lie. But unlike the mammoth operations to the southeast, Ramaco says it will bring diversification to the state through research and technology.
“Ramaco is poised to realize the long-desired goal of expanding Wyoming’s high-tech manufacturing economy,” said Don Collins, of the Western Research Institute of Laramie, a nonprofit joining Ramaco in the proposed research park.
Sheridan County hasn’t been mined since the mid-’80s, but the last company to dig coal in the region has fought Ramaco over boundaries and more recently over the company’s mining application.
State regulators deemed the application, which lays out a plan for operations and environmental safeguards, technically adequate. Local landowners say the mine plan proposed is dangerous, leaving the region at risk for sinkholes, diminished air and water quality.
The state’s Environmental Quality Council will make a decision on the contested mine plan Aug. 1.