Every day, 100 empty trains enter Wyoming. They leave fully loaded with coal. The United States has the largest coal reserves in the world, and much of it lies in the Powder River Basin (PRB) in Wyoming and Montana. The PRB, which lies between the Black Hills in South Dakota and the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming, produced 43% of the nation’s coal in 2019.
According to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey, the PRB contains 25 billion tons of economically recoverable coal. This does not mean it’s all mineable. The amount of economically recoverable coal can change based on mining costs and coal prices, which change based on market conditions. Nevertheless, the region has a lot of coal that is very accessible.
The Black Thunder Mine and the North Antelope Rochelle Complex are two of the largest open-pit mines in the PRB. They lie within the Thunder Basin National Grassland. These mines have been expanding over the past few decades, and the land change is evident in this time series of Landsat images.
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