THE US Surface Transportation Board has given preliminary approval to the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern’s ambitious proposal to extend to Wyoming’s Powder River coalfield. On December 10 the STB ruled that the scheme met legal requirements on feasibility, financial fitness, harm to existing carriers and the need for capacity. A final go-ahead will not be forthcoming until ’an extensive environmental review’ is completed.

DM&E plans to build a 418 km line west from Wasta, South Dakota, at a cost of $532m, and to upgrade 962 km of its existing route for a further $876m. Scenarios developed by ALK Associates envisage handling up to 100 million tonnes of coal by 2007, with break-even expected in 2004. Hatch Mott MacDonald, Frederick R Harris and Canac have been appointed to do project management.