Surface Mining
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Coal Continues to Be Major Source of Energy in U.S.

Published: February 11, 2019 |

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Coal continues to be a major source of energy in the US, despite the rise of many alternative sources of energy. Accounting for 13 percent of the world’s coal production, the US is home to some of the biggest coal mines in the world. Wyoming, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Kentucky are the major coal producing states in the US, accounting for more than 70 percent of the country’s coal production.

Overall, the US produced 774.6 million short tons of coal in 2017, according to a report by the US Energy Information Administration. Peabody Powder River Mining, Thunder Basin Coal Company, Antelope Coal, Blackjewel, and Cordero Mining are the major coal mine operators in the US.

North Antelope Rochelle Mine:

Operated by Peabody body Powder River Mining, the mine produced 101.5 million short tons of coal in 2017. It is located 104.6km south of Gillette, Wyoming, US. The mine was opened in 1999, with the integration of the North Antelope Mine and Rochelle Mine. The North Antelope Rochelle coal mine has nearly 1.9 billion tons of provable and probable reserves. Surface mining technique is used to mine the sedimentary coal deposit at the site. Coal quality is claimed to average 8,800 BTU/lb at the mine. In 2017, the direct and indirect economic benefits from the mine stood at $2.8bn. The mine employed 1,210 in 2018.

Black Thunder:

The mine produced 70.5 million short tons of coal in 2017, occupying second spot in the list of major US coal mines released by EIA. Opened in 1977, the Black Thunder coal mine is located in the Southern Powder River Basin of Wyoming. Spread over an area of 35,700 acres, the mine is estimated to contain 1.4 billion tonnes of recoverable coal reserves. It is operated by Thunder Basin Coal Company. It is one of the largest single coal mining complexes in the world to ship one billion tonnes of coal. The mine produces low-sulphur, sub-bituminous coal, which is considered as a suitable fuel for power generation.

Antelope Coal Mine:

Located in the southern end of the Powder River Basin, the mine is operated by Antelope Coal. It produced 28.5 million short tons of coal in 2017. Thermal coal is extracted the Anderson and Canyon Seams at the mines, with a thickness of up to 44 and 36 feet, respectively. Coal mined from Antelope is supplied mainly to electric utilities in the midwest, southwest and southeast US.

Eagle Butte Mine:

It is located 11km north of Gillette, Wyoming, the mine produced 17.2 million short tons of coal in 2017. The open-pit mine produces a low-sulfur, sub-bituminous coal from the Roland and Smith seams. The mine began shipping its first train of coal in 1978.

Cordero Rojo Mine:

The mine produced 16.3 million short tons of coal in 2017. Located approximately 40km south of Gillette, Wyoming, the Cordero Rojo Mine extracts thermal coal from the Wyodak Seam. Thickness of the coal extracted ranges from approximately 55 to 70 feet. The Cordero Rojo Mine supplies coal to electric utilities in the west, midwest and southeast US. The mine was acquired by Cloud Peak Energy from Rio Tinto Energy America in 2010.

Belle Ayr Mine:

The Belle Ayr Mine is also located in coal-rich Powder River Basin, Wyoming. It produced 15.8 million short tons of coal in 2017, according to the EIA report. It is an open-pit mine. Operations at the mine were started in 1972. It produces low-sulfur, sub-bituminous coal from the Wyodak-Anderson seam.

Freedom Mine:

Located about 13km from northwest of Beulah, North Dakota, the Freedom Mine is one of the largest lignite mines in the US. The mine produced 14.7 million short tons of coal in 2017. The Freedom Mine contributes to half of lignite coal mined in North Dakota. It is owned by The Coteau Properties Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the North American Coal Corporation.  The mine supplies over lignite coa to the Great Plains Synfuels Plant.

Source: Compelo


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