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Coal Production & Mining

Wyoming is the most prolific coal-producing state in the United States. In 2014, approximately 392 million tons of coal was mined from 18 mines. Wyoming produces more coal than the next six largest coal mining states combined, and provides 40 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of coal as shown in the graph below.

State coal production

Coal production was up 2 percent in 2014 and the price increased 11 percent, resulting in a production value increase to $4.7 billion (based on EIA spot coal price only). Demand in 2014 increased for Wyoming steam coal (also known as thermal coal) used for power generation.

Impending and current EPA carbon dioxide (CO2) and mercury environmental regulations for coal-fired power plants are also having an impact on coal mining. In addition, renewable energy installations have increased to 12 percent of the U.S. electricity portfolio. At the same time power plants are installing state-of-the-art pollution control equipment and beneficiation or coal washing facilities. All of these factors 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 high demand. The all-time highest coal production year for Wyoming was in 2008 when the state mined 466.3 million tons. More than 7.8 billion tons of Wyoming coal have been produced since 1994, or 74 percent of the historic statewide total.

Wyoming’s large surface coal mines are the most efficient in the nation. The average coal recovery factor is 92 percent at the large surface mines. Wyoming’s 18 actively-producing coal mines provide more than 6,500 jobs. Since the advent of large surface mine equipment Wyoming's coal mines have grown directly. The statewide average production of coal tonnage per employee is 27.74 tons, the highest productivity in the nation, more than double the next top coal-producing state. Since 1865 Wyoming coal mines have produced 10.6 billion tons of coal.

Wyoming’s Coal Industry

Campbell, Converse, Johnson, and Sheridan 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 (<2,000 ft) are the main source for what is considered inexpensive electricity in the United States. Campbell County supplies more coal for electricity generation than any other county in the U.S. The table below shows Wyoming coal production in short tons, by county and by method of mining for 2014 (Source: Wyoming State Inspector of Mines).

County 2014 Production Underground mine Surface mine Total mines
Campbell 345,269,563 - 345,269,563 12
Converse 33,646,960 - 33,646,960 1
Hot Springs 12,900 - 12,900 1
Lincoln 4,399,238 - 4,399,238 1
Sweetwater 9,377,952 3,369,731 6,008,221 3
Uinta 45,100 - 45,100 1
Total 392,751,713 3,369,731 389,381,982 19

Currently, there are 18 active coal mines in the state operated by 10 companies. Wyoming also has seven coal-fired power plants. In 2014, coal industry operations in Wyoming occurred in nine of the state’s 23 counties. Wyoming Coal Production and Employment Graph

Wyoming coal is primarily extracted through surface mining, with a total of 17 surface mines and one underground mine in operation. 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 can be nearly 1.5 miles long.

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 Canada. Wyoming Coal Distribution Map

Wyoming Coal Stats Current Wyoming Coal Mine Statistics

Wyoming Coal StatsMSHA Quarterly Coal Mine Production

Chris Carroll (307) 766-2286 Ext. 243