Region key to country’s energy cornerstone, coal
Wyoming is rich in western culture, and the plains of Campbell County — home to a multitude of wildlife such as deer, antelope and bison — grew as the railroad came west to bring settlers and returned east with livestock to sustain growing cities. Today the railroad still plays an integral part in the economy of northeast Wyoming. Today’s cowboys cab be seen raising cattle and sheep along the rural highways, but many have traded in their cowboy boots to work in an industry driven by oil, gas and coal development.
This is the site of the Powder River Basin, home to some of the biggest coal mines in the world. The region supplies 40 percent of U.S. coal, making this spot in the Equality State the energy capital of America. The local economy is dominated by the industry, and Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Devon Energy, Yates Petroleum Corp., Cloud Peak Energy, Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and Peabody Energy all call the region home.”
“The Powder River Basin offers an incredible amount of energy potential through coal with vast reserves that can supply us and our allies for years to come,” says Rick Curtsinger, director of public affairs for Cloud Peak Energy. “The energy potential of this region is truly world-class.”
Cloud Peak is one of America’s largest coal producers with three mines in the Powder River Basin – two are in Northeast Wyoming, near Gillette.
“For the past several years, the coal we generate supplies four percent of the electricity for the nation,” Curtsinger says. “The mines in the basin are all surface mines. We use advanced techniques to mine the coal, which gets turned into cheap electricity from as far east as Georgia to as far west as South Korea.”
“Our coal is both low-sulfur and low-ash, making it more environmentally-friendly. And the quality of the seam, and the vast amount of coal in the basin, lower production costs,” Curtsinger says. “We can compete with anyone in the country.”
Keep It Clean
In addition to mining a cleaner product, companies like Cloud Peak are also winning awards for reclamation projects that return closed mines to thriving, natural habitats. Most recently Cloud Peak’s Cordero Rojo Mine, located near Gillette, received the 2015 State of Wyoming Reclamation Award from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Land Quality Division for their successful restoring of the Belle Fourche River. Through design and reconstruction, the Cordero Rojo Mine relocated a stretch of the Belle Fourche River, reclaiming the stream channel and restoring the land. The reclaimed stream channel is abundant with erosion-halting grass cover, and aquatic life has been reintroduced to the area.
Colin Marshall, president and CEO of Cloud Peak Energy, noted, “Reclamation is a critical part of the mining process, and this award recognizes the successful work of all our employees at the Cordero Rojo Mine. We will continue to return the land to a condition that is as good as or better than before mining began.”
Keep On Keeping the Power On
Curtsinger sees an inevitable rebound for a resource with resilient demand.
“The federal government forecasts coal as 20-25 percent of America’s energy future. For decades to come, it will continue to be an important part of the country’s energy mix,” Curtsinger says. “We’re producing the coal with very stringent environmental standards. Responsible production and responsible use will continue to ensure coal’s role in growing America.”