Three of the world's 10 biggest coal mines by reserve are located in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, US, while China and Australia each contain two of the biggest. Mining-technology.com profiles the 10 biggest operating coal mines in the world based on recoverable coal reserves.
North Antelope Rochelle, US
The North Antelope Rochelle coal mine in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, US, is currently the world's largest coal mine by reserve. The mine was estimated to contain more than 2.3 billion tonnes of recoverable coal as of December 2012.
The mine is owned and operated by Peabody Energy. It is a surface mining operation with the sedimentary coal deposit mined at three pits. It consists of two mines, namely North Antelope, which opened in 1983, and Rochelle, which commenced production in 1985. The two mines were combined into a single operation in 1999.
North Antelope Rochelle produced 107.7 million tonnes (Mt) of thermal coal in 2012, compared to 109.1Mt in 2011. The mine is believed to produce the cleanest coal in the US, the coal quality averaging 8,800 British thermal units per pound (Btu/lb) and sulphur content as low as 0.2%.
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The Haerwusu Coal Mine in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China ranks as the second biggest coal mine in the world. With estimated recoverable coal reserves of more than 1.7 billion tonnes, it is also the largest open-cast coal mine in China.
The mine is spread across 67km² in the middle of the Zhungeer Coalfield and is owned and operated by China's state-run Shenhua Group. The development cost of the mine was approximately $1.1bn. First coal production occurred in October 2008.
The mine's annual output is estimated to be 20Mt of crude coal. The reserve life is more than 75 years.
Hei Dai Gou, China
The Hei Dai Gou or Heidaigou, an open-pit coal mine also located in the middle of Zhungeer coal field in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China, ranks as the third largest coal mine by reserve. It is estimated to contain 1.5 billion tonnes of recoverable coal reserves.
The mine is located 150km south-west of the Ordos city and has a planned mining area covering 42km². Shenhua Group is the owner and operator of the mine.
Hei Dai Gou has been in production since 1999 and is China's first coal mine to use AC Powered Walking Dragline. It produces low sulphur and low phosphorus coal. The designed annual raw coal output of the mine is up to 31Mt.
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The Moatize coal mine located in the Tete Province of Mozambique is currently the fourth biggest in the world. The estimated recoverable coal reserve of the mine as of December 2012 was 1,498.8Mt (300.4Mt proven and 1,198.4Mt probable).
The operator of Moatize is the Brazilian mining company Vale, which holds 95% interest in the mine. Moatize is Vale's first Greenfield project in Africa. The concession to build and operate the mine was granted in 2006. The open-pit coal mine commenced operations in July 2011.
The nominal annual production capacity of Moatize is 11Mt of coal, including 8.5Mt of metallurgical coal and 2.5Mt of thermal coal). Full production is expected to be achieved in 2015.
Black Thunder, US
The Black Thunder coal mine in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, US, is the fifth largest coal mine by reserve. The surface mine spread across an area of 35,700 acres was estimated to contain 1,466.1Mt of recoverable coal reserve as of December 2012. It is owned and operated by Arch Coal.
The surface mining complex consists of seven active pit areas and three loadout facilities. The produced raw coal is directly shipped via the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe and Union Pacific railroads.
Black Thunder produced 92.9Mt of raw coal in 2012, compared to 104.9Mt in 2011. The current production levels are expected to be maintained at least until 2021.
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Peak Downs, Australia
Peak Downs coal mine in the Bowen Basin of central Queensland, Australia, ranks as the world's sixth biggest coal mine. The mine was estimated to hold 1,063Mt of recoverable coal reserves as of June 2013.
Peak Downs is one of the seven Bowen Basin mines owned and operated by BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA). It is an open-cut mine using dragline and truck/shovel fleets for overburden removal. It started production in 1972.
It produced more than 9Mt of metallurgical coal in the year ending 30 June 2013. The coal output of the mine is sent via rail to the Hay Point Coal Terminal near Mackay, for shipping.
The Mt Arthur coal mine located in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, Australia, is the world's seventh largest coal mine by reserve. Recoverable coal reserves at Mt Arthur as of June 2013 were 1,049Mt (585Mt proven and 464Mt probable).
The mine is owned and operated by BHP Billiton. The mining operation consists of mainly two open cut mining areas, namely the Northern Open Cut and the Southern Open Cut. More than 20 coal seams are mined at Mt Arthur. Mining operation was started in 1968.
The mine produces thermal coal for local and international customers in the energy sector. The annual coal production is approximately 16Mt. The estimated reserve life of the mine is 40 years.
The Coballo coal mine located about 20 miles south-east of Gillette in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, US, ranks as the eighth largest coal mine in the world. The estimated recoverable coal reserve at Coballo as of December 2012 stood at 852Mt.
The mine is owned and operated by Peabody Energy and has been in production since 1978. It is a surface mining operation extracting coal from two seams, namely Smith and Wyodak-Anderson.
It produced 16.9Mt of thermal coal in 2012 compared to 24.1Mt in 2011. The coal output is transported to the coal based utilities in the central United States via BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad.
The Raspadskaya mine in the Kemerovo region of the Russian Federation is the largest coal mine in Russia and ninth largest in the world. Raspadskaya's recoverable coal reserve is estimated at 782Mt.
The Raspadskaya mining operation consists of two underground mines, namely Raspadskaya and MUK-96, and one open pit mine called Razrez Raspadsky. Coal Company Raspadskaya is the owner and operator of the mine.
Production at Raspadskaya started in the late 1970s. The mine produces 100% coking coal. The production totalled 13.6Mt in 2007, including 8.9Mt produced from the Raspadskaya underground mine, which is the largest underground mine in Russia.
Cerrejon coal mine located in the Guajira Peninsula of Colombia is the tenth largest coal mine by reserve. The mine was estimated to contain 754Mt of recoverable coal reserves (661Mt proven, 93.2Mt probable) as of June 2013.
The independently operated mine is owned by a joint venture partnership between Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Glencore Xstrata, each holding a 33.3% share. It is an open-pit mine and has been producing since 1985.
Cerrejon currently produces 32Mt of thermal coal per year. An expansion project named P40 has been underway since 2011 to increase the mine's annual production to 40Mt by 2014.
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