The city has closed on a deal on the former mine property in Thermo, according to city manager Marc Maxwell.
As of Friday at 11:30 a.m. the agreement for the city to take over the 4900 acre property was official, Maxwell said.
“I am so excited about Thermo, because I see the potential for revenue production,” Maxwell told the council and citizens at the city’s first-ever vision meeting on Sept. 19. “To me, everything that we talk about what can be and what should be hinges on whether that happens.”
The Thermo coal mine, previously owned by Luminant Mining from 1978 to 2011, closed its Monticello units 1 and 2 in 2016 and acquired its coal from Wyoming. In October 2017, the city began its first talks with company to transfer ownership to the city.
“I was in that meeting where they were discussing that, and Marc [Maxwell] told them [Luminant, owners of the property], ‘well why don’t you just give us the whole thing?’” Economic Development Corporation board member Clay Walker told the community group. “They said, ‘Well, we’ve thought about it.’”
In July 2017, the company agreed to do just that.
The process, which Maxwell calls “a long journey” will culminate in December as the city prepares to annex the property. According to Maxwell, citizens with properties adjacent to the mine will not be annexed. Maxwell estimates that the city will move forward with this in 60 to 90 days. Maxwell calls the property a “game changer for the city in terms of tax revenue.”
A story published Oct. 30 by non-profit Texas Tribune claims that a failure to fully remit the area in a 1000-acre section of the property called Area H, as is Maxwell’s stated plan, “a very risky situation” due to reports from the Texas Railroad Commission that found slightly elevated soil and water acidity near Thermo’s pond.
“The claims by them [the Tribune] that there’s acidity in the hill are entirely fabricated,” Maxwell said, calling the story “sensationalistic.”
“Mine companies know this and have been through this,” he added. According to Maxwell, “Luminant is not trying to offload liability on to the city… Luminant is in fact trying to do something the city requested them to do… the benefits to the city and the State of Texas will be substantial.”
The city is already done with phase 1 of environmental investigations, Maxwell said, and has attended meetings with both the Railroad Commission and Luminant on the site’s progress moving.