Black Thunder Mine
|This article is part of the CoalSwarm coverage of Coal in the United States|
The Black Thunder Coal Mine is operated by Arch Coal and is a surface coal mine in the U.S. state of Wyoming, located in Campbell County, in the Powder River Basin, which contains one of the largest deposits of coal in the world. Black Thunder is the largest coal mining complex in the United States, behind only the North Antelope Rochelle Mine, and is one of the largest in the world.
In 2011 Black Thunder produced 116.2 million tons of coal. The mine is the first coal mine in the world to ship 1 billion tons of coal. In 2007, the mine extracted 86,196,275 short tons of coal, nearly 20 percent of Wyoming's total coal production, and higher than 23 other individual coal producing states. In early 2009, Rio Tinto reached an agreement to sell its Jacobs Ranch Mine to Arch Coal for $761 million, which will combine the mine with its Black Thunder Mine. In 2010, the Black Thunder Mine dug up an estimated 115 million tons of coal, an increase of 34 million tons over 2009. The increase was a result of merging the Jacobs Ranch Mine - and its average 38 million tons per year - into the Black Thunder's annual production.
The mine was opened in 1977, and run by ARCO Coal until it was acquired in 1998 by Arch Coal. For most of its existence, Black Thunder has been the largest mine in the country (by production), but it was surpassed by the nearby North Antelope Rochelle Mine. North Antelope Rochelle was created after Arch Coal purchased the Rochelle mine next door to their North Antelope Mine and consolidated operations. Arch Coal, Inc. announced on March 9, 2009 that it has agreed to purchase Rio Tinto's Jacobs Ranch mine adjoining Black Thunder, which will result in Black Thunder once again being the largest mine in the country.
Warren Buffett and Bill Gates visit Thunder Mine
In November 2010, Warren Buffett and billionaire Bill Gates, a Berkshire director, visited the Black Thunder Mine in Wyoming. Buffett was quoted later as saying that he found the trip to the Black Thunder Mine “fascinating.” Neither gave interviews during the tour, but some speculated that the trip was an indication that the two were looking to invest in the project. However, in the past Bill Gates has stated that coal and natural gas must be phased out by 2050. As the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett also owns the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad that transports most of Wyoming's vast coal supply around the country, along with the utility company, MidAmerican Energy, which operates 11 coal-fired power plants, including four in Wyoming.
On Dec. 14, 2010, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett met with President Obama's Oval Office and discussed ways to improve the economy. According to author Jeff Biggers, on Jan 6, 2011, Wall Street analysts said Buffett was betting "big" on Coal. In a Feb. 26, 2011 annual Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Letter, Buffet said his coal-transporting railroads (nearly 300 million tons of coal a year) "will increase Berkshire's 'normal' earning power by nearly 40% pre-tax and by well over 30% after-tax." On March 22, 2011, citing the nuclear tragedy in Japan and world energy needs, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar opened 750 million-2.4 billions tons of coal on public lands in Wyoming's section of the Powder River Basin.
200 million ton coal lease in Wyoming overturned
In March 2011 the Rocky Mountain Regional Office of the Forest Service “reversed in whole” a decision that consented to the leasing of more than 222 million tons of coal to be mined. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management issues coal leases, however if leases include National Forests or Grasslands, they cannot lease them without getting permissions from the Forest Service first.
In this case, the Forest Service consented to the issuance of the South Hilight coal lease, which would have facilitated the expansion of the Black Thunder Mine in Wyoming. The lease included portions of the Thunder Basin National Grassland in northeastern Wyoming. When burned, WildEarth Guardians contended, "the coal would release more than 400,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide—equal to the annual emissions from 87 coal-fired power plants."
On Oct. 18, 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said it was planning to auction off 222 million tons of coal in the Powder River Basin, underlying 2,000 acres next to the Black Thunder Mine. The BLM says it will open sealed bids for the coal for Dec. 14, 2011, at the BLM Wyoming State Office in Cheyenne.
- MSHA ID: 4800977
- Owner: Thunder Basin Coal Company
- Parent company: Arch Coal
- Location: Campbell County, Wyoming
- GPS coordinates: 43.66, -105.3
- Production: 86,196,275 short tons
- Type of coal: Bituminous
- Mine type: Surface
- Equipment: 4 draglines, 11 electric shovels
- Mine Status: Active
- Average No. of Employees: 1,057
Articles and resources
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- Existing U.S. Coal Plants
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- Energy Information Administration - Annual Report. Retrieved on 2008-01-25.
- "Black Thunder Mine" Arch Coal, accessed August 1, 2011.
- Brett Foley, "Arch Coal to Buy U.S. Mine From Rio for $761 Million" Bloomberg.com, March 12, 2009
- Dustin Bleizeffer, "Rebound: 2010 showed modest recovery for coal" K2 Technologies, January 5, 2011.
- Mining Technology
- Arch Coal Announces Plans to Acquire Rio Tinto's Jacobs Ranch Operation.
- "Warren Buffett is Betting Big on Coal" Jim Fink, Investing Daily, January 6, 2011.
- "Bill Gates: ban coal and invest in clean energy technology" Mongabay.com, February 12, 2010.
- "All the President's (Coal) Men: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Obama's Wyoming Giveaway" HuffPo, March 28, 2011.
- "Coal mining to expand on public lands in Wyoming" Jim Spellman, CNN.com, March 22, 2011.
- "WildEarth Guardians Scores Victories for Clean Energy" WildEarth Guardians, Press Release, April 7, 2011.
- "BLM to auction off coal reserves near Black Thunder Mine" Billings Gazette, Oct. 18, 2011.