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Existing U.S. Coal Mines

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To see a nationwide list of 600 coal mines in the United States, click here. For a list of over 40 proposed coal mines, click here. To see a listing of coal mines in a particular state, click on the map:

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U.S. Coal Reserves

The U.S. is estimated to contain more coal reserves than any other country in the world, or 27% of the 2006 recoverable coal reserve estimates of around 800 or 900 gigatons. While data quality varies widely, the countries with the greatest estimated recoverable reserves of coal are:[1]

Table 1: Estimated recoverable coal reserves at end-2006

Category Amount (million short tons)
United States 246,643
Russia 157,010
China 114,500
India 92,445
Australia 78,500

However, coal reserves are difficult to measure due to differences between the amount of coal in the ground and the amount of coal that will ultimately be mined, assuming constraints ranging from physical barriers to technological limitations to environmental regulations. As Table 2 shows, even in the comparatively well-studied United States, the exact definition of reserves and resources results in a 200-fold difference between U.S. estimates of "total resources" (4,000 billion short tons) and "recoverable reserves at active mines" (19 billion short tons).

Table 2: U.S. Coal Resources and Reserves in 2005[2]

Category Amount (billion short tons)
Recoverable Reserves at Active Mines 19
Estimated Recoverable Reserves 270
Demonstrated Reserve Base 490
Identified Resources 1,700
Total Resources (above plus undiscovered resources) 4,000

Ownership of U.S. coal reserves

Table 3: Major Holders of U.S. Coal Reserves (Billion short tons). Note: Figure for U.S. Government is based on a National Mining Association calculation based on federal ownership of about one-third of the United States' coal reserves of 264 billion short tons.[3]

Holder Estimate Reserves
1. U.S. Government 88.000
2. Great Northern Properties LP 20.000
3. Peabody Energy 8.200
4. CONSOL Energy 4.422
5. Arch Coal 2.900
6. North American Coal 2.400
7. Massey Energy 2.300
8. Natural Resource Partners LP 2.300
9. Pocahontas Land Corp. (Norfolk Southern) 1.730
10. Murray Energy 1.685
11. Foundation Coal 1.585
12. Rio Tinto 1.400
13. Luminant (formerly TXU and Alcoa) 1.300
14. Patriot Coal (formerly Peabody mines) 1.263
15. International Coal Group 0.965
16. Westmoreland Coal 0.946
17. Penn Virginia Resource Partners, LP 0.818
18. Alliance Resource Partners 0.713
19. Magnum Coal Company 0.650
20. Alpha Natural Resources 0.618

Federal ownership

The Powder River Basin accounts for about 37 percent of U.S. coal production.[4] Almost all of the coal in the Powder River Basin is federally owned; as shown in the map below of the Gillette field, the core production area of the Powder River Basin, the Federal government is the primary owner of coal in most western states.[5]

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U.S. Coal Mines

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), there were 1,458 coal mines in the U.S. in 2008, producing a total of 1,171,809 thousand short tons of coal.[6]

Largest Areas of Coal Production

Wyoming has been the top coal-producing state in the United States since 1988, due to the Powder River Basin, a region in northeast Wyoming and southeast Montana that is the single largest source of coal mined in the United States and contains one of the largest deposits of coal in the world. 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.[7] Overall, the Powder River Basin accounts for about 37 percent of U.S. coal production.[8]

Major U.S. Coal Companies

Below is a table of the top 10 U.S. coal producers in 2009, according to EIA data. The top five account for over 50% of U.S. coal production, and the top 10 account for nearly 2/3 U.S. coal production.[9]

2009 Largest U.S. Coal Producers:

Producer Production (thousand short tons) Percent of total production
Peabody Energy 189,232 17.6
Arch Coal 148,061 13.8
Cloud Peak Energy 140,818 8.5
Alpha Natural Resources 85,523 7.8
CONSOL Energy 58,145 5.4
Massey Energy 37,161 3.5
NACCO Industries 31,085 2.9
Patriot Coal 29,268 2.7
Kiewit Mining Group 27,136 2.5
Alliance Resource Operating Partners 25,874 2.4

Major coal mines

The following table lists the 52 coal mines in the United States that produced at least 4,000,000 short tons of coal in 2007. Data have been compiled by the Energy Information Administration of the United States Department of Energy.

Major United States Coal Mines in 2007[10]
Mine Names Company Mine Type State 2007 Production (short tons)
North Antelope Rochelle Mine Peabody Energy[11] Surface Wyoming 91,523,280
Black Thunder Mine Arch Coal[12] Surface Wyoming 86,196,275
Cordero Rojo Mine Rio Tinto Energy America
(Rio Tinto Group)[13]
Surface Wyoming 40,467,627
Jacobs Ranch Mine Arch Coal[14] Surface Wyoming 38,101,560
Antelope Coal Mine Rio Tinto Energy America
(Rio Tinto Group)[14]
Surface Wyoming 34,474,682
Caballo Mine Peabody Energy Corporation[11] Surface Wyoming 31,172,396
Belle Ayr Mine Foundation Coal[15] Surface Wyoming 26,608,765
Buckskin Mine Kiewit Corporation[16] Surface Wyoming 25,268,145
Eagle Butte Mine Foundation Coal[15] Surface Wyoming 24,985,991
Rawhide Mine Peabody Energy Corporation[11] Surface Wyoming 17,144,361
Spring Creek Mine Rio Tinto Energy America
(Rio Tinto Group)[14]
Surface Montana 15,712,091
Freedom Mine North American Coal Corporation[17] Surface North Dakota 14,955,989
Rosebud Mine Westmoreland Coal Company[18] Surface Montana 12,583,084
Enlow Fork Mine CONSOL Energy[19] Underground Pennsylvania 11,222,052
Coal Creek Mine Arch Coal[12] Surface Wyoming 10,216,194
Bailey Mine CONSOL Energy[19] Underground Pennsylvania 9,827,946
McElroy Mine CONSOL Energy[19] Underground West Virginia 9,667,258
Navajo mine BHP Billiton[20] Surface New Mexico 8,529,955
Foidel Creek Mine Peabody Energy Corporation[11] Underground Colorado 8,290,117
Kayenta Mine Peabody Energy Corporation[11] Surface Arizona 7,982,584
Falkirk Mine North American Coal Corporation[17] Surface North Dakota 7,788,852
Absaloka Mine Westmoreland Coal Company[18] Surface Montana 7,704,556
Cumberland Mine Foundation Coal[15] Underground Pennsylvania 7,264,244
Century Mine Murray Energy Corporation[21] Underground Ohio 7,141,934
Galatia Mine Murray Energy Corporation[21] Underground Illinois 7,009,160
Decker Mine Rio Tinto Energy America
(Rio Tinto Group)[14]
Surface Montana 6,984,546
San Juan Mine 1 BHP Billiton[20] Underground New Mexico 6,898,040
West Elk Mine Arch Coal[12] Underground Colorado 6,874,101
Jewett Mine Westmoreland Coal Company[18] Surface Texas 6,779,166
Sufco Mine Arch Coal[12] Underground Utah 6,711,925
Loveridge Number 22 Mine CONSOL Energy[19] Underground West Virginia 6,642,339
Robinson Run No 95 Mine CONSOL Energy[19] Underground West Virginia 6,502,004
Beckville Strip Mine Energy Future Holdings Corporation[10][22] Surface Texas 6,172,298
Emerald Mine No 1 Foundation Coal[15] Underground Pennsylvania 5,674,111
Colowyo Mine Rio Tinto Group[23] Surface Colorado 5,596,568
Bowie No 2 Mine Bowie Resources[10] Underground Colorado 5,480,569
Lee Ranch Coal Company Peabody Energy Corporation[11] Surface New Mexico 5,358,749
Dry Fork Mine Western Fuels Association[24] Surface Wyoming 5,303,516
Kemmerer Mine Chevron Corporation[25] Surface Wyoming 5,190,147
Twilight MTR Surface Mine Massey Energy[26] Surface West Virginia 5,164,718
Blacksville Number 2 Mine CONSOL Energy[19] Underground Pennsylvania 5,150,114
Wyodak Mine Black Hills Corporation[27] Surface Wyoming 5,049,231
Elk Creek Mine Oxbow Corporation[28] Underground Colorado 4,823,662
Cardinal Mine Alliance Resource Partners[29] Underground Kentucky 4,650,696
Dotiki Mine Alliance Resource Partners[29] Underground Kentucky 4,597,010
Powhatan No. 6 Mine Murray Energy Corporation[21] Underground Ohio 4,594,616
West Ridge Mine Murray Energy Corporation[21] Underground Utah 4,254,863
South Hallsville No 1 Mine North American Coal Corporation[18] Surface Texas 4,153,485
Hobet 21 Surface Mine Patriot Coal[30] Surface West Virginia 4,145,752
Three Oaks Mine Energy Future Holdings Corporation[10][22] Surface Texas 4,120,619
Oak Hill Strip Mine Energy Future Holdings Corporation[10][22] Surface Texas 4,108,562
Federal No. 2 Mine Patriot Coal[30] Underground West Virginia 4,020,116

Proposed coal mines

For more details, see Proposed coal mines.

  • Sage Creek Mine, Colorado - Peabody Energy and Twen­tymile Coal Company hope to begin construction on the new underground Sage Creek Mine in West Routt County, CO as early as 2010.[33]
  • Crow Reservation, Montana - In April 2008, operators of the Absaloka Mine in southeastern Montana proposed to extend the mine 3,660 acres onto the neighboring Crow tribe reservation.[35] The mine would serve a proposed $8 billion coal-to-liquids plant.[36]
  • Otter Creek, Montana - 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.[37]

Mountaintop Removal

For more details, see Mountaintop removal.

Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) is a form of surface mining increasingly being used to replace underground mining to extract coal from the Appalachian Mountain regions of eastern Kentucky, southwest West Virgina, southwest Virginia and eastern Tennessee[38]. The process involves using explosives to remove up to 1,000 vertical feet of rock to reach the coal seams. The resulting debris is often scraped into the adjacent valleys in what is called a valley fill. [39][40][41]

Because of the physically destructive nature of the practice, MTR is controversial and has received national and international media attention prompted by a groundswell of grassroots activism and resistance by local residents, environmentalists, social justice activists and others[42][43].

Environmental Impacts

Coal mining, especially mountaintop removal, has a number of adverse effects on the environment:

  • the release of methane (CH4), a potent greenhouse gas estimated to account for 18% of the overall global warming effect triggered by human activities (CO2 is estimated to contribute 50%).[44]
  • drastic alteration of the landscape, which can render an area unfit for other purposes, even after coal mine reclamation.[45]
  • the release of carbon monoxide (CO) from explosives, which pollutes the air and poses a health risk for mine workers.[45]
  • dust and coal particles stirred up during the mining process, as well as the soot released during coal transport, which can cause severe and potentially deadly respiratory problems.[45]
  • water pollution, as sulfuric acid forms when coal is exposed to air and water, creating an acid run-off with heavy metals.[44] Seepage from coal sludge can also infect local water supplies.[45]

Coal Sludge

Coal sludge, also known as slurry, is the liquid coal waste produced by mining activities. After mining, coal is crushed and washed to remove the surrounding soil and rock. The washing process generates huge amounts of liquid waste, and the mining process itself produces millions of tons of solid waste. Coal companies usually dispose of this waste by constructing dams from the solid mining refuse to store the liquid waste. These impoundments are usually located in valleys near their coal processing plants, and have broken apart and flooded and polluted residential areas, such as the Martin County sludge spill.[46]

Coal sludge is filled with toxins. Each year coal preparation creates waste water containing an estimated 13 tons of mercury, 3236 tons of arsenic, 189 tons of beryllium, 251 tons of cadmium, and 2754 tons of nickel, and 1098 tons of selenium.[47]

The term coal sludge is also sometimes used to refer to coal waste as a whole.

Coal reserves and climate change

In 2004, U.S. coal-fired power plants produced 2,154.6 million tons of CO2 – 35.8% of total U.S. CO2 emissions, and 8.0% of total world CO2 emissions. To put this in perspective, U.S. coal-fired power plants produced more CO2 in 2004 than was emitted by all sources in all of Africa, South America, and Central America combined.[48]

Most climate policy recommendations having to do with coal and climate change have focused on measures to limit the yearly output of greenhouse gases; for example placing a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants that do not sequester their carbon dioxide emissions and then phasing out existing plants. Such recommendations generally assume that coal reserves are too massive to not pose a potential limitation to climate change. If anything, coal usage would rise if other sources, particularly oil, were to run short. For example, in 2004, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded:[49]

Absolute fossil fuel scarcity at the global level is not a significant factor in considering climate change mitigation. Conventional oil production will eventually peak, but it is uncertain exactly when and what the repercussions will be. The energy in conventional natural gas is more abundant than in conventional oil but, like oil, is not distributed evenly around the globe. In the future, lack of security of oil and gas supplies for consuming nations may drive a shift to coal, nuclear power and/or renewable energy.[4.3.1].

There are arguments that world coal reserves are overstated by the IPCC, and that depletion of coal reserves, or "peak coal," might limit the extent of potential warming caused by coal, especially if those reserves could be reduced yet further by policies to move some coal into off-limits status. Noting that the a third of U.S. coal reserves are located on federal lands, Dave Rutledge suggests that a government program aimed at sidetracking a portion of those reserves would be more effective in limiting ultimate global warming than attempting to limit annual usage of coal.[50]

Activism

Organizations

There are a number of national, regional, state, and local groups working on coal issues.

For a list of organizations, see Citizen groups working on coal issues.

Direct Actions

For more details, see Nonviolent direct actions against coal.

5 activists arrested for protesting at Massey Energy mountaintop removal site on March 5, 2009.

Actions against mountaintop removal

On August 15, 2005, Earth First! and Mountain Justice Summer activists blockaded a road leading to National Coal's mountaintop removal coal mine in Campbell County, Tennessee. Activists stopped a car on the road, removed its tires, locked themselves to the vehicle, and erected a tripod with a person perched on top of it. National Coal workers arrived and threatened the protestors; one tried to ram the tripod with his car. Eleven people were arrested.[51][52]

Since that time anti-coal protesters in West Virginia have been facing escalated legal struggles as a result of their non-violent actions against mountaintop removal. Protests in 2008 were often met with arrests for trespassing, where the individuals involved in the actions were ticketed and released.[53]

In February 2009, 100 were arrested in connection with the non-violent direct actions taken by the group Climate Ground Zero against Massey Energy, in protest of its mountaintop removal practices. Federal U.S. District Judge Irene Berger barred protesters from "trespassing" on Massey Energy property. [54]

After Climate Ground Zero's actions against Massey, bails have increased as well as charges. Protesters have been denied the right to a bail bondsman in some cases. Critics note that this has been done in an attempt to keep the activists in jail longer. Massey Energy, which has been the target of many of the most recent protests in West Virginia, has filed multiple civil lawsuits against these activists arrested on their property.[53]

On March 2, 2010 environmentalists took their efforts to the West Virginia Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn what they called "overly broad and unconstitutional" restraining orders that were designed to keep protesters away from Massey Energy operations.[53]

Actions in the Powder River Basin

For more details, see Powder River Basin.

The Powder River Basin accounts for about 37 percent of U.S. coal production.[55] Almost all of the coal in the Powder River Basin is federally owned and further mine expansions will require a series of federal and state approvals,[56] as well as large investments in additional mine equipment to begin the excavations.

On September 21, 2009 Chuck Kerr with Houston-based Great Northern Properties, which owns lands next to Montana coal properties, urged the state to begin leasing and mining the land. Both private and state coal holdings in Montana must be developed together.

On February 2, 2010 the Montana Land Board faced vocal opposition from the Northern Plains Resource Council who wants the Land Board to reconsider leasing Otter Creek for mining rights. Former Resource Council President Beth Kaeding claimed that mining in the area would hurt local farmers.[57] In mid-February 2010, students spoke in Helena at the public Land Board meeting to oppose lowering the State's bid on Otter Creek coal. In Missoula, students from Hellgate High School protested in the streets in opposition to the Land Board's decision to sell off public lands to coal development, chanting "Hell no to dirty coal!".[58]

On March 18, 2010 the Montana Land Board approved the leasing of Otter Creek coal to Arch Coal. Prior to the Land Board's 3-2 vote, five protesters were arrested at the Land Board's Capitol meeting room while they chanted "Hands off Otter Creek - you're not listening!"[59]

Native American tribal lands

For more details, see Coal and Native American tribal lands.

Native American lands of the United States are home to large coal reserves and coal mining, making its indigenous residents disproportionately effected by the environmental hazards of the coal industry. The common challenges of land and resource development are exacerbated by the poor economic situation of many of the tribes, which raises questions of environmental justice and indigenous sovereignty.[60]

According to the Department of the Interior, twenty-five Native American reservations have coal reserves. Navajo, Hopi, and Crow lands all have coal mines. The Southern Ute, Uintah, Ouray, Fort Berthold, Northern Cheyenne, and Zuni have coal reserves with potential for development.[61]

Resources

References

  1. National Resource Council,"BP Statistical review of world energy June 2007" British Petroleum. June 2007.
  2. National Resource Council, Coal: Research and Development to Support National Energy Policy, 2007, pp. 44-45
  3. 2007 Coal Producers Survey, National Mining Association, 2008
  4. Luppens, J. A.., Scott, D. C., Haacke, J. E., Osmonson, L. M., Rohrbacher, T. J., and Ellis, M. S., "Assessment of Coal Geology, Resources, and Reserves in the Gillette Coalfield, Powder River Basin, Wyoming," U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008-1202, 2008 (PDF file)
  5. James Luppens et al, Assessment of Coal Geology, Resources, and Reserves in the Gillette Coalfield, Powder River Basin, Wyoming, US Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008-1202, 2008, Figure 63
  6. "Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, 2008-2007" EIA Report, September 18, 2009
  7. N. R. Jones and others, "Wyoming," Mining Engineering, May 2008, p.134.
  8. Luppens, J. A.., Scott, D. C., Haacke, J. E., Osmonson, L. M., Rohrbacher, T. J., and Ellis, M. S., "Assessment of Coal Geology, Resources, and Reserves in the Gillette Coalfield, Powder River Basin, Wyoming," U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008-1202, 2008 (PDF file)
  9. Major U.S. Coal Producers, 2009, EIA Report, October 1, 2010.
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  28. About Oxbow: U.S. Locations. Oxbow website. Oxbow Corporation. Retrieved on 2009-04-21.
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  32. Proposed Red Cliff Coal Mine project description, Bureau of Land Management
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  34. "Coal Mines Making a Comeback," iStockAnalyst, March 30, 2009.
  35. “Proposal would move mining onto Crow Reservation” Susan Gallagher, Helena Independent Record, April 4, 2008
  36. 36.0 36.1 Matthew Brown,"Coal mines eyed near Red Lodge, Bridger" AP Press, February 27, 2010
  37. "Arch Coal boosts Powder River Basin reserves" Reuters, March 18, 2010
  38. Mountaintop removal: Moving the mountains -- strip mining by any other name Roanoke Times, July 2, 2006
  39. "Appeals Court Upholds Mountaintop Removal Mining", Environment News Service, Februrary 3, 2003.
  40. Mountaintop Mining/Valley Fills in Appalachia: Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, accessed March 2008.
  41. Mountaintop Mining and Valley Fills in Appalachia (MTM/VF) - Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, U.S. EPA, accessed March 2008.
  42. An analysis of news coverage of mountaintop removal mining, INSTITUTE FOR RURAL JOURNALISM & COMMUNITY ISSUES, April 20, 2006
  43. Julia Bonds, 2003 The Goldman Environmental Prize Winner
  44. 44.0 44.1 Environmental Impacts of Coal Mining, World Coal Institute, accessed April 2008.
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  46. "What is a Coal Sludge Impoundment?," Sludge Safety Project, accessed August 2009.
  47. "Green Coal?," Rachel's Environment & Health News, November 6, 2008.
  48. Emissions of Greenhouse Gases Report”, Energy Information Administration, 2007.
  49. B. Metz, O. R. Davidson, P. R. Bosch, R. Dave, L. A. Meyer (eds), "Climate Change 2007: Mitigation: Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change," Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 2007
  50. "Hubbert's Peak, The Coal Question, and Climate Change," slide 52, Dave Rutledge, videotaped lecture and accompanying PowerPoint slides, October 2007
  51. Eleven Arrested Protesting ET Coal Mine, WBIR website, August 15, 2005.
  52. Tennessee Coal Road Blocked to Protest Mountaintop Removal Mining, Mines & Communities website, August 15, 2005.
  53. 53.0 53.1 53.2 "Escalating Sanctions Against Mountain Top Removal Activists" Tricia Shapiro, CounterPunch.org March 2, 2010
  54. "Mining protesters appeal to state Supreme Court" Viki Smith, Charleston Daily Mail, March 2, 2010
  55. Luppens, J. A.., Scott, D. C., Haacke, J. E., Osmonson, L. M., Rohrbacher, T. J., and Ellis, M. S., "Assessment of Coal Geology, Resources, and Reserves in the Gillette Coalfield, Powder River Basin, Wyoming," U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008-1202, 2008 (PDF file)
  56. Casper Field Office NEPA Documents Online
  57. Kyle Midura, [http://www.kulr8.com/news/local/83406712.html, "Coal Tract Lease Protest" February 3, 2010.
  58. "Land Board waffles, Hellgate High School students protest Otter Creek lease" February 17, 2010.
  59. "Protesters arrested as Land Board approves Otter Creek coal lease" Mike Dennison, Billings Gazette, March 18, 2010.
  60. Interview with Winona LaDuke, Grist, April 19, 2004
  61. The Direct Use of Coal: Prospects and Problems of Production and Combustion,Office of Technology Assessment, Books for Business, November 2002, p. 325

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