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Home Working with Section 106 ACHP Case Digest Summer 2003 North Dakota: Expansion of Coal Mining Operations, Mercer County
North Dakota: Expansion of Coal Mining Operations, Mercer County
Agencies: Office of Surface Mining and Bureau
of Land Management
Nearly 300 prehistoric and historic sites could be affected by the proposed expansion of coal mining operations in Mercer County, North Dakota.
Thirty nine of the prehistoric sites and one of the historic sites have been determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Placesóbut which prehistoric sites may qualify for the National Register for their traditional religious and cultural importance has not yet been determined, although a large number of Indian tribes have indicated that such properties exist within the area.
While consultation among the tribes, the mining company, Federal agencies, and the State of North Dakota continues, the mining company has proposed to address the potential loss of historic properties through measures that include establishing an Indian Cultural Education Trust contributing approximately $200,000 to the Indian Education Trust fund for the tribes for cultural education purposes.
A coal mining company proposes to expand its operations in Mercer County, North Dakota. The project, known as the West Mine Expansion, will affect approximately 17,051 acres, mostly privately owned with a small percentage under State ownership.
Through surveys of the West Mine Expansion area, 231 prehistoric sites and 67 historic sites were identified; 39 of the prehistoric sites and one of the historic sites were determined to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM)which will administer the subsurface coal in about one-third of the project area as well as lease the Federal coaland the Office of Surface Mining (OSM)which is responsible for mining plan approval of any Federal coalhave not resolved which of the 231 prehistoric sites may qualify for listing on the National Register for their traditional religious and cultural importance.
Nearly 20 Indian tribes have expressed their concern with the adequacy of identification and evaluation of the historic properties that they say contain traditional religious and cultural value. They have expressed their desire that such values are fully considered in the design and mitigation measures of the West Mine Expansion.
The coal mining company has proposed to address the losses of historic properties due to the West Mine Expansion through several approaches, including establishing an Indian Cultural Education Trust with the North Dakota State Land Department under a new State law to hold about 10 percent of the project lands containing some of the historic properties of the project area for tribal use in spiritual and traditional activities.
In addition, the company has proposed to contribute approximately $200,000 to the Indian Education Trust fund for dispersal to the tribes for cultural education purposes.
In January 2003, the ACHP participated in a meeting with the projects consulting parties and was invited by OSM and BLM to formally participate in the review of the project.
Although a Programmatic Agreement is in draft form and has been circulated with a draft Cultural Resource Management Plan containing details of the projects proposed mitigation measures, the projects stakeholders have not yet agreed on the potential mitigation measures, and consultation on the projects effects on the historic properties continues.
Staff contact: Alan Stanfill
Updated November 20, 2003
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