Gillette, Campbell County Mining Industry Plays Major Role in Jobs and Economic Development

Powder River Basin Coal Plant in Gillette, WY

Coal production is big business for Gillette and Campbell County, and with new technologies for both extraction and use, the industry will continue to be a major player in the economic development, and job growth, of the region for years to come.

One-fifth of all coal production in the United States originates in the Powder River Basin, which produces a low- sulfur, low-ash coal that is highly prized for its ability to comply with the Clean Air Act. Peabody Energy operates here and has long and deep ties to the Gillette economy.

Peabody has three mines in the area: North Antelope Rochelle, the largest and most productive mine in North America, shipped 97.5 million tons of compliance coal in 2008, and has produced more than 1 billion tons since the mine opened; the Caballo Mine, which shipped 31.2 million tons of coal in 2008; and the Rawhide Mine, which offered up 18.4 million tons that same year. All of Peabody’s mines are known for industry-leading safety and reclamation practices, which include land-restoration projects throughout the basin.

In 2008, Rio Tinto Energy America (now Cloud Peak Energy) was the second-largest coal producer in the country; combined, its four mines in the basin control approximately 2.5 billion tons of recoverable coal.

Similar to that from Peabody’s mines, its recoverable coal is sought after for its low environmental impact when burned.

These major players and others in the industry continue to dominate the state’s economic development landscape, and also play a huge role in their local areas as well, says Marion Loomis, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association.

“Even though there has been a drop in demand for Powder River Basin coal due to the economy, the industry has managed to keep all of its employees, and even increase those numbers,” Loomis says. “That’s good news for places like Campbell County.”

Coal producers continue working on more efficient methods of extraction, as well as funneling money into research on clean-burn facilities while also restoring land in and around mining sites. These efforts broaden their role in the local economy, and will continue to do so as the industry evolves and changes its basic practices going forward.

“You’re always looking for more efficient ways to operate, and things like carbon capture and sequestration continue to be a trend that we watch,” Loomis says. “We also stay on top of land-use issues and restoration projects. We’re going to continue to produce a lot of coal out of Wyoming, because even with new regulations and changes coal is going to continue to be a part of this nation’s electricity mix and a major economic engine for the state and especially Campbell County.”