CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently awarded the 2022 Excellence in Mining Reclamation Award for coal to Thunder Basin Coal Company for reclamation work at three of four open pits at the Coal Creek Mine in 2021.
DEQ presents the Excellence in Mining Reclamation Awards to Wyoming coal and noncoal mine operators who demonstrate an achievement in a specific aspect of mine reclamation or for overall performance in meeting reclamation goals.
A statement from Thunder Basin Coal Company said, “Thunder Basin Coal Company is honored to receive the 2022 Excellence in Mining Reclamation Award for Coal Creek Mine. The award reflects the company’s efforts and commitment to re-establishing a thriving post-mine environment.”
Thunder Basin Coal Company managers relocated equipment and personnel from an adjacent mine, Black Thunder, to the Coal Creek Mine to focus on reclamation. They expanded crew sizes and adjusted schedules to accommodate 24-hour reclamation work.
Matt Kunze, DEQ natural resources program supervisor, said, “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.”
The Coal Creek Mine encompasses 9,405 acres in the Powder River Basin south of Gillette. During this time, Thunder Basin Coal Company workers backfilled and graded approximately 2,000 acres.
Final material placement during 2021 totaled 22.4 million yards, which will reduce the outstanding bond liability for the mine. For the first time in the mine’s history, the amount of backfilled and graded acres exceeds the active mining acres.
The Thunder Basin Coal Company statement said, “The project was an important step in managing a responsible footprint throughout recent challenging and dynamic market conditions.”
To date, 98% of the Coal Creek Mine’s existing permanent reclamation has gone through a minimum of Phase I bond release. Topsoil placement and seeding are estimated to be completed by the end of 2022.
Kunze said, “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 achiever the post-mine land use of livestock grazing and wildlife habitat.”