Wyoming’s Coal Industry
Currently, there are 18 active coal mines in the state operated by 10 companies. Wyoming also has seven coal-fired power plants and four coal processing facilities. In 2012, coal industry operations in Wyoming occurred in nine of the state’s 23 counties (table 1).
Wyoming coal is primarily extracted through surface mining, with a total of 17 surface mines and one underground mine in operation in the state. On average, coal is mined at a rate of 12 tons per second. More than 94 percent of Wyoming coal is transported by railway. The Wyoming Mining Association estimates 75 to 80 trains (13,000-tons for each one) of coal are exported each day to market. The trains consist of 110 to 140 coal cars, and are more than 1.5 miles long.
The Peabody North Antelope Rochelle Mine and Arch Coal’s Black Thunder Mine (Campbell County) are the two largest coal mines in the United States. Each mine produces about 100 million tons annually. Combined, these two surface mines produce nearly 20 percent of the nation’s coal, more coal than the State of Kentucky produces annually.
Powder River Basin Coal Field
In the Powder River Basin coal field – the most prolific in the world – coal is mined from two major coal seams, the Anderson and Canyon coals. This coal occurs in the Paleocene-age (65 to 55 million years ago), Tongue River Member of the Fort Union Formation. The mineable subbituminous coal seams in the Fort Union Formation are 60 to 80 feet thick, with a moisture content between 20 and 30 percent, and contain less than 6 percent ash and 0.5 percent sulfur. Powder River Basin coal also extends into the Eocene-age Wasatch Formation, and exploration drilling has encountered coal seams greater than 200 feet thick. Learn more about the PRB.
Wyoming Coal Distribution
Over 94 percent of the coal mined in Wyoming is shipped via rail to other states. Coal-fired power plants in Texas, Illinois, and Missouri are the largest consumers of Wyoming coal. Most of the coal is used for steam to generate electricity at power plants, but a small amount is used at industrial plants and public institutions. Most of the coal is consumed in the U.S., but about 1 percent of Wyoming's coal is shipped for export to foreign countries.