North Antelope to Black thunder: the 10 biggest coal mines in the US

The Powder River Basin in Wyoming hosts six of the top ten US coal mines by reserves, while North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Montana host the remaining four. Mining-technology.com profiles the ten biggest coal mines in the US based on latest reserve and production data.


North Antelope Rochelle

North Antelope Rochelle - 2.25bt

The North Antelope Rochelle coal mine in the coal-rich Powder River Basin of Wyoming, about 65 miles south of Gillette, contains 2.25 billion tonnes (bt) of proven and probable coal reserves making it the biggest coal mine in the world.

The coal mine, owned and operated by Peabody Energy, produced 110.9 million tonnes (mt) of clean thermal coal in 2013 becoming the biggest coal producer in the US. North Antelope Rochelle is a surface mining operation extracting sedimentary coal deposits at three pits. Two coal mines, namely North Antelope, which opened in 1983, and Rochelle, which commenced production in 1985, were combined into a single operation in 1999.

Black Thunder - 1.4bt

The Black Thunder coal mine in the Powder River Basin in Campbell County, Wyoming, is the US' second biggest coal mine both by reserve and production. The coal mine, owned and operated by Arch Coal, was estimated to contain 1.4bt of proven and probable coal reserves by the end of 2013.

Black Thunder produced 100.7mt of coal in 2013 compared to 92.9mt in the previous year. The raw coal produced from the surface mining complex, comprised of seven active pit areas and three lead-out facilities, is directly shipped to customers via the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe (BNSF) and Union Pacific railroads.

Caballo - 836mt

Peabody Energy's Caballo coal mine located in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, about 20 miles south-east of Gillette, held 836mt of proven and probable coal reserves as of December 2013 estimates.

Caballo produced 9mt of coal in 2013 becoming the 15th biggest coal producing mine during the year in the US. It is a surface mining operation extracting coal from two seams, namely Smith and Wyodak-Anderson. The mine's output is supplied to coal-based utilities in central US via the BNSF and Union Pacific railroads.

Caballo coal mine

Antelope mine - 617mt

Antelope coal mine located in the southern end of Powder River Basin of Wyoming, about 60 miles south of Gillette, held 617mt of proven and probable coal reserves by the end of 2013. The coal mine, owned and operated by Cloud Peak Energy, produced 31.4mt of coal in 2013 ranking as the country's fourth biggest coal producing mine.

Antelope is a surface mining operation extracting thermal coal from the Anderson and Canyon Seams. The coal produced from the mine is supplied to electric utilities in the midwest, southwest and southeast regions of the country.

Freedom Mine - 512.4mt

Freedom coal mine located 90 miles northwest of Bismarck in Mercer County of North Dakota was estimated to contain 512.4mt of coal in proven and probable reserves by the end of 2013. The surface coal mine is owned and operated by the Coteau Properties Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the North American Coal Corporation.

Freedom produced 13.8mt of coal in 2013 becoming the tenth biggest coal producing mine in the country during the year. The lignite coal mine has been in operation since 1983 and its entire coal output is sold to Dakota Coal Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

Signal Peak - 431mt

Signal Peak underground coal mine, formerly known as the Bull Mountain mine, located 30 miles north of Billings in Montana, was estimated to possess 431mt of recoverable coal reserves by the end of 2013. The coal mine is owned and operated by Signal Peak Energy, a partnership between Boich, FirstEnergy Ventures, and Pinesdale, a wholly owned subsidiary of Gunvor Group. The mine produced 8.7mt of coal in 2013.

Underground continuous miner and longwall mining equipment are used for extracting coal at the mine. The recovered raw coal is cleaned at a nearby wash plant capable of cleaning 2,000t of coal an hour and the clean coal is sent via a 35 mile rail line connecting the mine site with the BNSF main rail line in Broadview.

Eagle Butte

Falkirk Mine - 407.7mt

Falkirk coal mine, which has been operational since 1978 in McLean County, North Dakota, held 407.7mt of proven and probable coal reserves as of December 2013. The open-pit surface mining operation owned by the North American Coal Corporation produced 7.7mt of lignite coal in 2013.

All coal production from the Falkirk Mine is used by Great River Energy's 1,100MW Coal Creek Station, North Dakota's largest power generating station located near the city of Underwood about 50 miles north of Bismarck.

Eagle Butte Mine - 380mt

Eagle Butte coal mine, located in the Powder River Basin, about seven miles north of Gillette in Wyoming, was estimated to hold over 380mt of proven and probable coal reserves as of December 2013. The open-pit coal mine, owned and operated by Alpha Natural Resources, produced 19.9mt of coal in 2013, which was the fourth highest coal production by any mine in the US.

Eagle Butte, producing since 1978, is a truck-shovel mining operation recovering low-sulphur coal from the Roland and Smith seams. The mined coal is directly shipped on BNSF Railway to power plants located in the West, Midwest and the South.

Bailey - 380mt

Consol Energy's Bailey underground coal mine located in south-western Pennsylvania was estimated to contain approximately 380mt of recoverable coal reserves as of December 2013. It produced 11.3mt of coal in 2013 becoming the eleventh highest producing American coal mine.

The mine extracts the high-Btu Pittsburgh coal seam using longwall and continuous mining machines. Bailey Mine Expansion or the BMX mine that uses the mine slope and portal of the old Bailey Mine to access additional reserves was brought online in 2014.

Black Thunder coal min

Belle Ayr - 350mt

The Belle Ayr coal mine owned by Alpha Natural Resources and located in the Powder River Basin, about 18 miles southeast of Gillette, Wyoming, was estimated to hold around 350mt of proven and probable coal reserves by the end of 2013. Belle Ayr produced 18.3mt of coal in 2013, becoming the sixth highest producing coal mine in the country last year.

It is a truck and shovel open-pit mining operation recovering low-sulphur coal from the Wyodak-Anderson seam. The coal produced from the mine is shipped on both the BNSF Railway and the Union Pacific Railroad for domestic energy generation.

NRI Energy Technology