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Powder River

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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.

Reassessment of the Gillette field

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.

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Pace Coal Project, Judith Basin County, MT

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.

Buckskin Mine Hay Creek II extension (proposed)

The Buckskin Mine Hay Creek II proposed mine is an extension of the existing Buckskin Mine.

Red Lodge Mine (Proposed)

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.[4].

Otter Creek Mine (proposed)

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.[5]

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.[6][7]

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.

Rail delays hit Powder River Basin Coal

April 22, 2014

After Montana and Wyoming endured one of the coldest winters in collective memory, the coal piles needed to fuel power plants has waned as coal train deliveries have struggled to provide reliable services. The Powder River Basin is home to the largest coalmines in the US and supplies huge amounts of coal throughout the US.

These shortages in coal deliveries has caused increased losses for utilities and threatens to be a continuing issue come summer peak season. The explanations for the delays in coal deliveries by the railroad have ranged from cold weather conditions to increased traffic as a result of the explosion in natural gas in the Bakken in combination with vast deposits mined in the Powder River Basin.

Read article at http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/rail-delays-hit-powder-river-basin-coal/article_f5119994-eb05-52a5-84ae-2a0e4c269b1b.html

Largest coal mines still in Wyoming, but US is diversifying

April 21, 2014

The Powder River Basin in 2013 listed the top nine coal producing mines in the United States. However, the amount of mines in the Powder River Basin situated in the top twenty five highest producing mines shrinked as compared to twenty years ago.

The decline in the amount of Powder River Basin mines being in the top twenty-five is the result of large mining projects taking hold in New Mexico, Texas, Indiana and Ohio. Nevertheless, the scale of coal production in the Powder River Basin’s Black Thunder mine and the North Antelope Rochelle mine are the largest producing coalmines with growths as high as 400% since 1994.

 Read article at http://www.mining.com/web/largest-coal-mines-still-in-wyoming-but-us-is-diversifying/

29 cars on coal train derail east of Terry

February 25, 2014

A coal train derailed on Monday evening with 29 of the 115 cars going off the tracks. The incident caused coal to be strewn out from the 29 cars all over the ground surrounding the tracks. The increase of coal trains through the Montana area has dramatically increased in the past year.

The coal was being transported from the Powder River Basin out of the Cordero Rojo mine. The mine is owned and operated by Cloud Peak Energy and was being transported to Minnesota.

 Read article at http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/cars-on-coal-train-derail-east-of-terry/article_ba16b1c6-3b1e-5f6a-9808-75f0bf3abbda.html

Coal dust fire at Wyoming mine burns 3 miners

September 12, 2013

In less than a month since the death of a miner at Black Thunder Mine in the Powder River Basin, 3 coal miners at the North Antelope Rochelle mine located in the Powder River Basin suffered second- and third-degree burns.

The miners were burnt at a coal truck crusher dump when hot bearing embers and a weed burner used to heat the bearing race ignited the dust. The mine is owned by Peabody Energy Corporation based out of St. Louis.

Read article at http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/coal-dust-fire-at-wyoming-mine-burns-miners/article_52300686-746b-531e-8427-f3df489a6f03.html

Worker dies at Wyoming’s Black Thunder mine

August 16 2013

A 24 year old Upton, WY man died early morning on August 16th while working for the Black Thunder mine.

Jacob Dowdy, a miner for Arch Coal, was killed when a powder shovel at Black Thunder mine was driving up a ramp and rolled backwards, colliding with Jacob Dowdy’s truck and killing him and injuring the driver of the other truck behind him.

Read article at http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/worker-dies-at-wyoming-s-black-thunder-mine/article_d0a00eb8-9ac8-57a2-8b0e-557a73dbccd9.html

Many coal sludge impoundments have weak walls, federal study says

April 24, 2013

The Washington Post recently reported a study from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement that the majority of storage ponds for sludge associated with coal mining are fragile and are of substandard construction.

Out of 73 tests performed on the structural integrity of the walls holding the toxic sludge in the storage ponds, only 16 walls met the standards. This report highlights the potential dangers to both coal worker safety and the environment.

Read article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/many-coal-sludge-impoundments-have-weak-walls-federal-study-says/2013/04/24/76c5be2a-acf9-11e2-a8b9-2a63d75b5459_story.html


Cloud Peak Energy Buys Coal Mine Near Sheridan

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

Gillette coal mine to lay off employees

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.

Read article at http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/gillette-coal-mine-to-lay-off-employees/article_eda14004-95cd-58c6-8742-057b79854d65.html

Report details economic boost from Otter Creek coal, attracts criticism

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.


Read article at http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/report-details-economic-boost-from-otter-creek-coal-attracts-criticism/article_b04c4848-b5d4-11e1-9660-001a4bcf887a.html

Bureau of Land Management to sell 721 million tons of Powder River Basin coal

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

Bonding Adequacy Oversight Report – Western Region – Dept of Interior – 2010

State by state survey of practices for bonding coal mines. Published July 8, 2010


Assessment of Coal Geology, Resources, and Reserves in the Southwestern Powder River Basin, WY – USGS – 2011

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.


Buckskin Mine Hay Creek II – Coal Lease Application – Final Environmental Impact Statement – WYW-172684

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


West Coal Creek Lease By Application – Record of Decision – WYW172585

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.


Bull Mountain Mine – Coal Lease – Environmental Assessment – BLM – 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


MSHA Internal Audits, Region 9, 2010

Reports from MSHA Office of Accountability reviews of MSHA inspectors in region 9.


Horse Creek Coal Lease Application – Final Environmental Impact Statement – DOI 2000

May 2000, Casper Field Office, Bureau of Land Management (Federal Coal lease Application WYW141435)


South Hilight Coal Lease Application – Record of Decision – BLM 2011



Caballo West Lease by Application, Record of Decision, BLM 2010

Campbell County, Wyoming WYW172657


Belle Ayr North Lease by Application, Record of Decision, BLM, 2010

Campbell County, Wyoming WYW161248