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Anchorage (AK) – A huge surface coal mine proposed on Alaska’s Chuitna River by the owner of the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort in Utah has drawn the ire of some groups over the mine’s contribution to greenhouse gases and it’s likely impact to Utah’s snowfall.


Richard Bass, who owns the prominent Utah resort, has partnered with Howard Hunt to form PacRim Coal LLC, a Delaware mining company, that is proposing the large surface coal mine in order to feed coal markets in Pacific Rim countries. Environmental studies and estimates on the mine proposal show that it would produce over 12 million tons of coal annually and when burned would emit over 54 billion pounds of carbon dioxide per year.


Studies also show that the mine would inundate approximately 11 miles of tributaries in the Chuitna River system, impact approximately 30 square miles of land within the watershed and severely impact one of the state’s best wild salmon fisheries.


The Chuitna River is one of the main rivers that drain into the Cook Inlet.   


Activists are saying that it’s extremely hypocritical for Bass, as owner of one the country’s premier ski resorts, to be developing a large coal mine when burning coal is a major source of global warming gases.


“It’s more than ironic that the owner of a business that is solely dependent upon quality snow, and lots of it, is now engaging in a practice that is a direct threat to the ski industry,” said XXX with the Ski Area Citizen’s Coalition. “It’s an established fact that coal combustion is the largest single source of greenhouse gases across the planet, a phenomenon that is already wreaking havoc on our climate and weather patterns. And this man wants to sell billions of tons of coal to China so it can be burned? Utah skiers and backcountry enthusiasts should be concerned.”


Bass’s proposed coal mine is especially confounding, others say, considering that Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort has been an active participant in the National Ski Area Associations Sustainable Slopes program, the organization’s Environmental Charter established in 2000 that, among other environmental initiatives, set forth policy to reduce operational greenhouse gases and address climate change.


“Snowbird has been one of the leading ski areas in terms of addressing global warming,” said Mark Clemens with the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club. “In fact, they were the top award recipient from the NSAA in 2007. That’s what makes this proposed coal mine by Mr. Bass so puzzling.”


Clemens said that the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club is one of the partnering organizations that helped draft and endorse the Sustainable Slopes program and has worked with Snowbird in the past to help make the resort more environmentally friendly. To now find out that its owner wants to develop a coal mine could be interpreted as “a slap in the face to many who have worked so hard over the years.”


Today’s statement comes as several Alaska groups are also releasing three independent environmental evaluations of the Chuitna coal mine that show that it is highly unlikely that the river’s fishery would ever recover. Because the Chuitna fishery is a critical food source for native subsistence as well as an established commercial and sport fishery, the groups say that the project should simply not be allowed to go forward.


“We want to keep Utah cool and Alaska wild,” said Dan Ritzman, the Western Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “We aim to show that sparing the climate billions of tons of greenhouse gases and protection of this fragile fishery are better long-term investment for local economies in Utah and Alaska. And in today’s transition to a greener economy, investments are coal are simply wasted dollars.”

Take Action:

Sierra Magazine recently published an extensive article on the Chuitna coal mine, which can be found at


The science reports and executive summaries can be downloaded at:

  • Report on Chuitna Coal Project Aquatic Studies and Fish and Wildlife Protection Plan
  • Chuitna Coal Mine Baseline Monitoring and Restoration Plan Review
  • Report on Chuitna Coal Project of PacRim Coal

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