Crow Sign Coal Mine Agreement

Billings Gazette Staff

Feb. 14, 2004 -- Crow Tribal Chairman Carl Venne said Friday that the tribe and Westmoreland Resources Inc. have reached an agreement to explore and develop tribal coal reserves adjacent to the Absaloka Mine.

When developed, the South Expansion area, located on the Crow Reservation south of the existing mine, will extend the potential life of the mine for at least 10 years. If Westmoreland's exploration and permitting efforts are successful, coal mining in the South Expansion will begin in 2009, Venne said.

The Absaloka Mine has provided substantial royalty and tax revenues to the tribe for the past 30 years and has provided dozens of good-paying jobs for tribal members, who comprise 75 percent of the mine's work force, Venne said.

The new agreement allows for those benefits to continue, he said. The agreement provides for a higher royalty rate, strengthens Westmoreland's commitment to employ tribal members and recognizes the tribe's sovereignty and regulatory authority within the reservation, Venne said.

The Crow Tribal Legislature approved the agreement Tuesday. The agreement was signed Friday by Venne and Westmoreland President Tom Rossetto. The agreement must be approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Minerals Management Service of the Department of Interior.