Coal Creek reclamation efforts earn DEQ recognition

Coal train
A coal train navigates its load through an s-curve near Coal Creek Jct. in the Powder River Basin. (Photo: Jerry Huddleston/Flickr, Creative Commons)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Reclamation efforts at Coal Creek Mine have received a statewide award for their work on three of four open pits, according to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

The award recognizes Wyoming coal and noncoal mine operators for either overall performance in meeting reclamation goals or in achieving a specific aspect of mine reclamation, DEQ said Aug. 1.

“Thunder Basin Coal Company successfully demonstrated the ability to shift and prioritize resources at their larger mine to focus on reclamation at their adjacent mine during a period of decreased market demand,” DEQ Natural Resource Program Supervisor Matt Kunze said in a statement.

Company managers relocated personnel and equipment from Black Thunder Mine to focus on reclamation, per DEQ, which said Thunder Basin Coal Company expanded crew sizes and adjusted schedules to accommodate 24-hour reclamation work.

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“The project was an important step in managing a responsible footprint throughout recent challenging and dynamic market conditions,” Thunder Basin Coal Company said in a statement, and feels the award reflects the company’s efforts to commitment to re-establishing a thriving post-mine environment.

With their efforts, Thunder Basin Coal workers backfilled and graded approximately 2,000 acres of the mine’s total 9,405 acres in the Powder Rier Basin south of Gillette, DEQ said.

For the first time in history, the amount of backfilled and graded acres exceeds the active mining acres, according to DEQ, which says that 98 percent of Coal Creek’s existing permanent reclamation has gone through a minimum of Phase I bond release and that topsoil placement and seeding efforts should be completed by the end of 2022.

“Once final reclamation is completed, the outcome of the reclamation work started in 2021 will more than double the amount of permanent reclamation at the mine, helping to (achieve) the post-mine land use of livestock grazing and wildlife habitat,” Kunze said in a statement.