U.S. 2012 Coal Production.
Coal Production & Mining
Wyoming is the most prolific coal-producing state in the United States. In 2012, more than 401 million tons of coal were mined at 18 mines. Wyoming produces more coal than the next six largest coal mining states combined, and provides nearly 40 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of coal.
In 2011, the Wyoming coal production was valued at more than $6 billion. However, demand in 2012 fell for Wyoming steam coal, which is also known as thermal coal – used for power generation. The total statewide coal production in 2012 was down 9 percent, and the price of coal was also down 34 percent from 2011 to 2012. These two factors made the valuation of produced coal in 2012 at just over $4 billion. One reason for the decrease in production and decline in price is that competing low natural gas prices have led to power companies to fuel-switch from coal to natural gas. Impending and current carbon dioxide (CO2) environmental regulations for coal-fired power plants are also having an impact on coal mining. In addition, renewable energy installations have increased accounting for a larger portion of the U.S. electricity portfolio, while at the same time power plants are installing state-of-the-art pollution control equipment and beneficiation or coal washing facilities. All of these factories combined mean clean western U.S. coal (considered clean because it reduces the harmful emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels) is not in as high demand as it was in 2008. The all-time national highest coal production year was 466.3 million tons in 2008. More than 6.5 billion tons of Wyoming coal have been produced since 1994.
Historic coal production since 1865.
Campbell and Converse counties are home to Wyoming’s Powder River Basin (PRB), the nation’s most prolific source for steam coal. The 50 to 70 foot-thick coal seams at relatively shallow mining depths are the main source for what is considered inexpensive electricity in the United States. Table 1 shows Wyoming coal production by county and by method of mining for 2012.
|Coal-Producing County||Number of Mines||Production||Number of Mines||Production||Number of Mines||Production|
Table 1. Wyoming coal production by county and mine type, 2012. All production values in tons. Source: Wyoming Coal Mine Inspector Report, 2013.
Wyoming’s large surface coal mines are the most efficient in the nation. The average coal recovery factor is 91 percent at the large surface mines. Wyoming’s 18 actively producing coal mines provide more than 7,000 jobs, and the statewide average production of coal tonnage per employee is 29.3 tons, the highest productivity in the nation, more than double the next top coal-producing state. Since 1865 Wyoming coal mines have produced 10 billion tons of coal.