The Powder River Basin (PRB) is a region in southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming about 120 miles east to west and 200 miles north to south known for its coal deposits. It is the single largest source of coal mined in the United States and contains one of the largest deposits of coal in the world. Most of the active coal mining in the Powder River Basin actually takes place in drainages of the Cheyenne River. Because of the Powder River Basin, Wyoming has been the top coal-producing state in the United States since 1988.
In 2007, the Powder River Basin alone produced 436 million short tons (396 million tonnes) of coal, more than twice the production of second-place West Virginia, and more than the entire Appalachian region. Overall, the Powder River Basin accounts for about 37 percent of U.S. coal production. The Black Thunder Mine is the most productive coal mine in the United States; in 2006 this single mine produced 84 million metric tons of coal, more than any state except Wyoming, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
The majority of the coal mined in the PRB is part of the Fort Union Formation. Because of its low sulfur and fly ash content, this coal is exported outside the region and supplies of the coal in the region makes it very desirable. Coal supplies about half of the United States electricity supplies, with the PRB mines supplying around 40% of the coal that fuels those stations, mainly to the east of the Rocky Mountains.
Virtually all the coal mined in the Powder River Basin (431 million tons out of the 436 million tons mined in the entire basin in 2006) comes from the Gillette field. In 2008 the U.S. Geological Survey released a detailed assessment of the coal resource in the Gillette field. USGS concluded that the portion of the recoverable coal that can be mined, processed, and marketed at a profit, based on conditions in 2007, including $10.47 per ton and assuming an 8 percent rate of return, is 10.1 billion short tons for the six coal beds evaluated. This is about half the estimate arrived at by a 2002 study of the same field, which arrived at an economically recoverable resource of 23 billion short tons. However, if the price of coal is assumed to be $14.00 per ton, matching the sales price of coal for the Gillette coalfield as of March 2008, the reserve would be 18.5 billion short tons, assuming no increase from 2007 operating costs. If cost per ton rose to $60, the estimated reserve would rise to 77 billion short tons.
Read more about the Powder River Basin at CoalSwarm. This article uses content from the CoalSwarm article “Powder River Basin” on the SourceWatch wiki. The material is provided under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License 1.3.
The Pace Coal Project was originally tested by Mobil Oil in 1979. At that time, 45 samples were taken, which showed that the coal was high volatility bituminous, a higher grade of coal than normal in the Powder River Basin. In April 2010, American Power Corp. acquired the land associated with the project. It is believed that the mine could hold 410 million tons of coal.
The Buckskin Mine Hay Creek II proposed mine is an extension of the existing Buckskin Mine.
In February 2010, Management Energy Inc., a California coal startup, amassed leases on more than 10 square miles of land to build new coal mines in south-central Montana, near Red Lodge, in partnership with Tennessee coal entrepreneur John Baugues Jr..
In March 2010 Arch Coal made a successful bid of $85.8 million for the right to mine about 8,300 acres of state-owned minerals in the Otter Creek Tracts in southeastern Montana. The company said the land is a strategic platform for future growth in the Northern Powder River Basin. The company controls about 1.5 billion tons of coal reserves in Montana’s Otter Creek area.
The state of Montana Land Board has been looking to lease 616 million tons of coal reserves known as Otter Creek, which it received from the Federal Government at the beginning of the decade. The State Board of Land Commissioners made the initial decision on December 21, 2009. Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, a proponent of coal development, sits on the board along with other Montana officials.
Read more about the Otter Creek at CoalSwarm. This article uses content from the CoalSwarm article “Otter Creek” on the SourceWatch wiki. The material is provided under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License 1.3.
Powder River Basin Coalmines by DocSearls. This is a series of aerial photos taken off of a flight from Boston to LAX on January 27, 2009.
July 5, 2012
Cloud Peak Energy, the owners of the Spring Creek Coal Mine in Montana, has purchased an undeveloped coal mine near Sheridan, WY for $300 million from the Youngs Creek Mining Company.
The new mine has already obtained its mining permits and once operational is estimated to employ about 200 people at the site. While Wyoming is one of the largest coal producing states most of its production is centered around Gillette. This mine is about 100 miles west of there, and is in a region that has not recently had significant coal mining.
Read article at http://www.kulr8.com/news/wyoming/161276245.html
June 29, 2012
The Kiewit Mining Company, owners of the Buckskin Mine in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, has announced that it plans to lay off some workers in the coming weeks. The specifics about the size, composition and timing of the layoff are still being determined.
Buckskin is just the latest mine in the region to lay off employees as a result of a significant softening in the coal market. First quarter production at the mine was down 21% from the same quarter last year.
June 13, 2012
A proposed mine in southeastern Montana could significantly boost jobs, household income and tax revenues for the state, according to a report by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) released in early June.
If developed, the Otter Creek coal tracts, 100 miles south of Miles City, Mont., is expected to create 2,648 jobs during the initial permitting and construction phase and around 1750 new permanent year-round jobs once operational, according to the study.
In addition the study found, the Otter Creek mine operations could raise state and local tax revenue by almost $92 million per year, due to both coal-specific taxes and growth in the overall tax base,
Authors of the study noted, “domestic markets are unlikely to provide significant growth for Montana coal,” but China’s increasing demand could drive the proposed Otter Creek mine.
The Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the UM is a research center producing economic and industry data for Montana. The report was paid for by the Montana Contractors Association.
June 4, 2012
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will offer 721 million tons of coal in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin for sale on June 28.
Adjacent to the nearly 10 square-mile coal tract is the North Antelope Rochelle mine owned by St. Louis-based Peabody Energy Corp. The company applied for coal tract in 2006.
Read announcement at http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/news_room/2012/may/24coal-sale.html and article at http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/bureau-of-land-management-to-sell-million-tons-of-powder/article_a39e6811-55c0-5deb-b11b-c875aeb7899b.html
May 30, 2012
The Seattle City Council passed a resolution May 29, opposing development of coal-export terminals “over concerns about increased train traffic and potential harm to health and the environment,” according to the New York Times.
The Council’s resolution comes in the midst of the federal government’s initial review of at least six port facilities proposed in Washington and Oregon that have plans to ship coal from Montana and Wyoming to Asia.
According to the New York Times article, it’s estimated, “trains could carry at least 100 million tons of coal a year through the Northwest.”
The Council says, burning more coal is not consistent with the city’s goal to combat climate change.
“Opponents say the resolution is premature and that the council should let an environmental review be completed,” the New York Times reported.
May 21, 2012
Peabody Energy Corp. announced today the lease of 402 million tons of ultra low sulfur coal reserves in the South Porcupine reserve area in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. The company submitted a successful bid to incorporate the five-square-mile block into its mine plan after the permitting process. Peabody, the world’s biggest private-sector coal company, said Friday that it bid $1.11 per mineable ton for control of the reserve area, which is next to Peabody’s North Antelope Rochelle Mine. Peabody now controls 3.3 billion tons of Southern Powder River Basin coal reserves.
Last month the company reported that its first-quarter profit slipped on weaker U.S. coal demand for electricity generation because of a mild winter and utilities switching to cheaper natural gas. Peabody is based in St. Louis and has mines in Illinois, Indiana, Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico.
May 2, 2012
Portland General Electric (PGE) denied an initial proposal for a coal export terminal at the Port of St. Helens, referencing the negative effect of coal dust on the companies nearby air intake for its natural gas plants. The export terminal proposal submitted by Houston-based Kinder Morgan, seeks to build on part of 850 acres along the Columbia River leased to PGE essentially giving them veto power over land-use proposals.
PGE spokesperson Steve Corson said coal dust from nearby coal piles could foul air used for combustion inside the natural gas plants, which cost hundreds of millions to build. PGE is considering building a third plant along the Columbia River but has concerns about train and truck traffic to the export terminal blocking needed access to the gas plants.
May 2, 2012
Three coal mining companies in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin are cutting back operations due to a decline in coal demand from a warm winter and utilities moving away from coal to cheap natural gas. Peabody Energy Corp., which operates the North Antelope Rochelle, Caballo and Rawhide mines in the Powder River Basin, reduced its contact labor and temporary workers last week, totaling less than 2 percent of its Powder River Basin workforce. According to reports referring to federal employment data, cuts are estimated to be around 40 workers.
Cloud Peak Energy, the operator of the Cordero, Antelope and Decker mines in the Powder River Basin, stated they are closely managing overtime and reducing use of contractors while trying to avoid buying new equipment. St. Louis-based Arch Coal announced Tuesday it would further curtail production for the year by idling three draglines by the middle of the year. It’s not yet clear how the decrease in production cut will affect jobs, said Kim Link, spokeswoman for Arch Coal.
April 25, 2012
Oregon’s governor sent a letter to federal officials Wednesday, April 25, asking federal agencies to study the environmental impacts of mining coal in Montana and Wyoming, shipping it to the West Coast and burning it in Asia.
Gov. John Kitzhaber said the expansion of coal-export projects in the Northwest risk locking Asian countries into further dependency of fossil fuels. Six ports in Oregon and Washington have proposed projects at hand which could expand Asian coal exports by 100 million tons per year. Expanding Asian access to American coal could slow progress toward developing cleaner energy sources, the governor wrote.
April 18, 2012
The Sierra Club and the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, April 17th, over a proposed coal mine expansion in Montana. The two environmental groups argue, the state needs to consider potential future damage to water supplies of nearby property owners.
The lawsuit targets a pending application to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) by Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Co. for its Rosebud Mine near Colstrip. The plaintiffs are seeking a court order requiring MDEQ to make Westemoreland address water quality issues before approving the mine expansion.
The MDEQ said, the agency attempted to meet with plaintiffs before the lawsuit but any negotiations were avoided.
The plaintiffs said, they would rather negotiate with the backdrop of litigation.
State by state survey of practices for bonding coal mines. Published July 8, 2010
A new assessment of coal reserves in the Southwestern Powder River, a region currently unmined. A total of 23 coal beds are identified containing an estimated 341 billions short tons reserve mostly located at a depth of 1000-2000 feet and considered uneconomic to mine. Released September 16, 2011.
For reserves adjacent to the Buckskin Mine north of Gillette, WY. Requested by Kiewit Mining Properties, operator of the Buckskin Mine. Issued July 29, 2011
Campbell County, Wyoming. US Dept of Interior, Bureau of Land Management. Rejects Lease By Application due to lack of consent by owner of surface rights. Original request made Feb 10, 2006. Rejection signed June 3, 2011.
Environmental Assessment of Federal Coal Lease, DOI-BLM-MT-C010-2009-0010-EA, Bull Mountains Mine No. 1, Federal Coal Lease MTM 97988, Musselshell County, Montana, April, 2011
Reports from MSHA Office of Accountability reviews of MSHA inspectors in region 9.
May 2000, Casper Field Office, Bureau of Land Management (Federal Coal lease Application WYW141435)
Campbell County, Wyoming WYW172657
Campbell County, Wyoming WYW161248