DEQ awards annual coal reclamation award to North Antelope Rochelle Mine

Elk herd on reclamation on Tracy Draw in August 2023.

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Excellence in Mining Reclamation Awards are given 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.  The 2024 DEQ Excellence in Mining Reclamation Awards will be presented at the 68th Annual Wyoming Mining Association Annual Convention in Cody, June 5-7, 2024. 

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is pleased to award the 2024 Excellence in Mining Reclamation Award for coal to the North Antelope Rochelle Mine (NARM) (Permit No. 569).

NARM is operated by Peabody Powder River Mining LLC.  The mine permit area encompasses 65,805 acres and is located in the Powder River Basin south of Gillette.

NARM is recognized for their work at the 3,682-acre Southeast Reclamation Area.  Reclamation of this large area was carefully planned to maximize benefits to the designated post-mining land use of wildlife habitat and livestock grazing. 

A post-mining topography was designed to increase landscape diversity to provide a similar function to the native environment while offering additional stability.  Diverse landscape structures were designed to benefit wildlife by offering additional wind protection and wintertime shelter.

Southeast Reclamation Area at the North Antelope Rochelle Mine, showing topographic features and new water sources created.

A key design element implemented in the reclaimed area was the creation of additional water sources for wildlife and livestock.  Wetlands, reservoirs, playas, and stock wells were placed throughout the landscape where they did not exist prior to mining. 

Approximately four additional acres of new wetlands have been created.  Three playas with approximately 65 acres of pool area were present prior to mining, but the reclaimed area now includes nine playas with 86 acres of pool area. 

Prior to mining, there were only three stock wells and no stock reservoirs.  Post-mining, water supply for livestock has increased by providing either a stock well or stock reservoir within one mile from any reclaimed point.  Two new springs have developed in reclaimed stream channels that now contain densely vegetated wetlands.  Water quality in the springs is high with total dissolved solids lower than native surface water.

The post-mining land use of wildlife habitat and livestock grazing are further supported by the vegetation in the reclaimed area. The area was seeded with a variety of seed mixes, including grassland, sagebrush mosaic, sagebrush grassland, playa, and riparian. 

Livestock grazing is conducted on a rotational basis using temporary fences within large areas to create multiple grazing units. The fences allow for wildlife movement.  A strict regimen of annual rotations allows vegetation to rest. The rotation and resting strategy minimize negative impacts to the revegetation while maintaining high levels of livestock use. 

Matt Kunze, WDEQ Natural Resources Program Supervisor, said “The proactive upfront planning conducted by the North Antelope Rochelle Mine on this project was very impressive. This is an excellent example of a mining company taking decades of reclamation experience and using it to achieve success on the ground over a large area, with enormous benefits to the post-mining land use of wildlife and livestock.”

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