The mining industry in the US is booming and contributes hugely to the nation’s GDP.
The US coal production keeps increasing Year-over-year (YoY) to 577 million short tonnes in 2021 with a prospect of an increase to 598 million short tonnes in 2022.
The Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana produces about 350 million short tonnes, West Virginia produces over 100 million tonnes, while Pennsylvania and the Illinois Basins produce about 55 million tonnes each and the Kentucky region produces less than 50 million short tonnes annually.
What’s Wyoming’s Market Share of Coal Production?
Wyoming is the leading producing region of coal in the US for the past 30 years with over 40% production.
Wyoming is likely to produce about 370 million short tonnes of coal in 2022, and it’s the largest coal-producing country in the world with about 7% global market share.
When and where were the first mines constructed?
Large-scale mining has existed and survived for a long period, dating back to Mesopotamia and Egypt’s large-scale use of Metals around 3 000 BCE.
However, the archaeological record showed that hematite was mined in Ngwenya Mine, Eswatini in Swaziland about 43,000 years ago.
Coal was first mined from a moat pit on a large scale in Scotland in 1575 by Sir George Bruce while history has it that the ancient Chinese mined coal and used it as heat locally and in barter exchange 3000 years back.
Why does Wyoming produce so much Coal in the US?
Low-sulfur coal with low ash is more valuable since it’s lightweight, and Montana and Wyoming have the largest reserves of low-sulfur coal.
Wyoming’s peat is collected in freshwater swamps. The Wyoming Mining Association has confirmed the basin has coal reserves of 1.5 trillion tonnes and 11% of the coal reserves are recoverable.
Wyoming has a lot of valuable coal reserves, hence, they produce more millions of short tonnes than any other state in the US, China, or India.
The first discovery of coal in Wyoming was through the Fremont Expedition in 1843, and another discovery was during Raynolds Expedition in 1859.
However, commercial mining began in Wyoming in the 1860s when the Union Pacific Railroad arrived, and the Wyoming Coal and Mining company owned the first coal mines.
The largest coal mine in Wyoming in recent decades has been the Black Thunder Mine, which was opened in 1977 by ARCO Coal and was purchased by Arch Coal in 1998.
What are Mining Methods and Equipment?
There are 2 categories of mining: Surface mining and Underground mining, which of course requires more tools.
Therefore, the methods used in mining depend on the mineral and the location. However, there are 4 methods of mining minerals: Underground, Pit or Open surface, Placer, and In-situ leach.
The processes involved are Extraction, Material handling, and Material processing.
In surface mining, one or two of the following methods can be used to extract minerals.
- Strip method
- Open pit
In underground mining, one or two of the following methods or processes are used.
Blast, Room and Pillar, Cut and Fill, Drift and Fill, Sub-level Caving, Retreat, Longwall, Block caving, and Shrinkage Stope mining.
Contemporary mining methods and equipment
For miners to work on extraction sites, both traditional tools and contemporary tools are used.
Original mining equipment such as: hammers, chisels, mallets, pickaxes, wedges, and shovels are needed in both surface mining and underground mining.
Personal protective equipment is extremely important on site. This includes the usage and wearing of: cap lights, hearing and fall protection, protective communication systems, air respirators, reflective clothing, protective clothing, handwear, headwear, eyewear, and mining pouches.
Modern machinery however has the advantage of advanced technology that is more environmentally friendly, such as equipment including mining bearings that carry a load while in contact with and moving relative to another part.
There are two different types of bearings: plain bearings and roller bearings and both types help to lower system costs while providing excellent wear life and improved corrosion.
Other modern mining pieces of equipment are Hoppers, Shotcrete machines, Longwall machines, Stackers, Loaders and Haulers, Reclaimers, Roof bolters, Feeders, Drones, Excavators, Crushers, Highwall miners, Roasters, Graders, Drills, Mills, Mixers, Agitators, etc.
Future projections of mining in Wyoming/USA
While there’s a global debate to stop funding coal mining, the US is not moving away totally from coal.
The US’s recoverable coal reserves can last for more than 400 years.
The local use of coal power generation in the US has declined recently, however, the coal market is very strong when considering the price and market demands.
Therefore, Wyoming would continue to produce and export coal to the world to meet the energy demands of Asian countries like India and South Korea.