Palafox Mine Achieves Phase III Bond Release
The Palafox Mine is one of three mines formerly operated by Farco Mining Inc. (Farco) at its Texas mining complex, located approximately 31 miles northwest of Laredo. Mining operations at the Palafox Mine began in the early 1970s and ultimately encompassed 2,575 acres. Unlike most surface mines in Texas that produce lignite coal, the Palafox Mine produced a high-quality cannel coal that was shipped to Ireland for domestic heating. In 2005, Farco ceased mining operations at the Palafox Mine and, two years later, entered a 10-year Extended Responsibility Period with the Railroad Commission of Texas. Since that time, the mine has been reclaimed as pastureland with permanent water resources, achieving Phase III Bond Release in August 2019. This is a rare milestone in Texas, where six other mines – and only one larger in size than Palafox – have received Phase III Bond Release since 1991.
In 2007, Farco contracted with Trihydro Corporation (Trihydro) to oversee permitting, reclamation maintenance, and monitoring. Trihydro coordinated permitting efforts with state and federal agencies including the Surface Mining and Reclamation Division, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the US Environmental Protection Agency. Additionally, Trihydro provided routine groundwater and surface water sampling, hydraulic control structure designs and inspections, stormwater discharge sampling, surveying and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV, also known as drone) services, site construction administration and maintenance, and soil and vegetation assessments.
In April 2018, Farco submitted the initial Phase III Bond Release application, and Surface Mining and Reclamation Division conducted the corresponding inspection in May 2018. Farco worked closely with Surface Mining and Reclamation Division and the landowner over the next year to address permitting, maintenance, and reporting concerns. The final step of the bond release process involved plugging and abandoning the remaining monitoring wells, which was completed in July 2019 and the Railroad Commission of Texas approved the bond release two weeks later. The Railroad Commission’s final order released the $3.4 million reclamation bond the agency held for reclamation compliance.
The property has returned to the landowner for livestock grazing and wildlife habitat. Today, a variety of species call the former coal mine home, including whitetail deer, bobcat, bob white quail, Texas tortoise, Rio Grande turkey, blue indigo snake, and migrating waterfowl and birds. Livestock and indigenous animals rely heavily on the water supplied by the mine’s former sediment ponds, now reclaimed as water resources. The former mining blocks are covered with grasses and native vegetation that provide ample forage and cover for the resident animals. With Palafox released, Farco continues to work diligently with the Surface Mining and Reclamation Division and other agencies to release the remaining bonded acres of the two other former mines within the complex.