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EPA starts process that could restrict Pebble Mine

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking the first steps toward possibly restricting or even prohibiting development of a massive gold-and-copper prospect near the headwaters of a world-premier sockeye salmon fishery in southwest Alaska.

The federal agency will ask the state and those behind the proposed Pebble Mine to make their case for the project.

Noting tech needs, mining companies seek graphite

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Tear apart an electric car's rechargeable battery and you'll find a mineral normally associated with No. 2 pencils.

It's graphite.

And experts say the promise of expanded uses for "pencil lead" in lithium-ion batteries — used in cars, cellphones and tablet computers — as well as a decrease in supply from China has helped touch off the largest wave of mining projects in decades.

BHP Billiton posts $8.1 billion half year profit

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — BHP Billiton, the world's biggest miner, Tuesday reported a better-than-expected half year profit of $8.1 billion as cost cuts offset lower commodity prices.

The Anglo-Australian company's shareholders could participate in a company share buyback in six months. Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said net debt could be down to $25 billion by then, a level he has previously said could trigger a capital return.

BHP's net profit for the July-December half year jumped 83 percent to $8.1 billion from $4.4 billion a year earlier.

Stripping out one-time gains and losses, profit was up 31 percent to $7.8 billion. That was well ahead of analyst forecasts of about $7 billion.

EIA: Coal production down 6.7 percent on year


The Energy Information Administration said U.S. coal production fell 6.7 percent on the year in the week ending Feb. 8, Platts reports.

California drought helps gold prospectors


California's ongoing drought has caused a significant drop in water levels in some rivers, boosting opportunities for gold prospectors to make finds without scuba equipment, NPR reports.

Senate Energy Dems raise concern on coal leasing program

The New York Times

Investigators for Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said in a report that the Bureau of Land Management's coal leasing program has allowed some companies to pay low rates for leases and benefit from low royalties at taxpayer cost, The New York Times reports.

Enzi touts GAO report as support for coal lease program

The Hill

In contrast to Democratic arguments that a GAO report highlights problems with the federal coal leasing program, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said the $1 billion in leasing revenue detailed in the report proves the economic necessity of the program, The Hill reports.

Eastern Kentucky coal jobs take big hit in 2013

Lexington Herald-Leader

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said in a report that coal operators in eastern Kentucky laid off 2,232 employees in 2013, a 23.4-percent decline, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.

Senator: US coal sales might have cost taxpayers

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Congressional investigators have found problems with federal coal sales that might have cost taxpayers $200 million or more in lost revenue, a senator said Tuesday.

Citing a new report by investigators at the non-partisan U.S. Government Accountability Office, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., called for the sales to be suspended until the problems are rectified.

More than 40 percent of U.S. coal production — or about 450 million tons a year — comes from public lands leased by the government to mining companies under the century-old Mineral Leasing Act. Those leases bring in more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

Safety violations noted at Nevada gold mine

RENO, Nev. (AP) — An assistant U.S. secretary of labor has criticized a Nevada gold mine for failing to protect its workers after federal inspectors issued more than 60 citations and orders involving health and safety violations subject to more than $200,000 in potential penalties.

A review issued Wednesday noted that Veris Gold USA Inc., owner and operator of the Jerritt Canyon mine in Elko County, didn't have to report an electrical explosion and fire that injured two employees there on Dec. 19 because inspectors for the Mining Safety and Health Administration were already on site documenting infractions.

The violations included blocked emergency escape routes, faulty pressure relief valves and improperly stored hazardous chemicals at the operation that has 120 workers about 50 miles north of Elko, the mining administration said.


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