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Coal Production & Mining

Coal production by state.

Wyoming remains the most prolific coal-producing state in the nation, producing 316 million short tons (MT) in 2017, an increase of 6 percent from the 297 MT produced in 2016.

In total, all Wyoming coal mines produce 41 percent of all U.S. coal production. In fact, Wyoming’s 16 mines produce more coal than all coal mines combined in the six other top producing states: West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kentucky, Texas, and Montana.

Between 1865 and January 1, 2018, more than 11.3 billion short tons of coal had been mined in Wyoming, most of it in the last 20 years. More than 7.7 billion short tons of Wyoming coal, or 68 percent of the historic statewide total, were produced after 1996. The highest coal production year for Wyoming was 2008, with 466.3 MT mined.

In terms of value, Wyoming coal production decreased 22 percent from an estimated $4.37 billion in 2015 to $2.77 billion in 2016, based on Energy Information Administration (EIA) average spot coal pricing. This was due to a significant drop in production and price in 2016. The industry rebounded throughout 2017, with an increase in coal production and price, rising from a low of $9.20/ton in December 2016 to an average of $12.23 in December 2017 (average NYMEX futures prices).

Wyoming’s large surface coal mines are the most efficient in the nation, with an average recovery factor of 92 percent (DOE-EIA, 2015). Statewide, the average production of coal per employee is 25.7 short tons per hour. This is the highest productivity in the nation and more than double the productivity of the next top coal-producing state.

Ten coal companies operate 16 coal mines, which are all located in three Wyoming counties: Campbell, Lincoln, and Sweetwater. The majority of the coal, however, is produced from 11 mines in Campbell County. Fifteen of the mines extract coal through surface mining techniques, and one underground mine operates in Sweetwater County.

The table below shows Wyoming coal production in short tons, by county, and by method of mining for 2016 (Source: Wyoming State Inspector of Mines, 2017).

County 2017 Production Underground mine Surface mine Total mines
Campbell 305,612,350 - 305,612,350 12
Lincoln 4,224,426 - 4,224,426 1
Sweetwater 6,767,091 1,715,801 5,051,290 3
Total 316,603,867 1,715,801 314,888,066 16

Mine Employment

Since 1960, coal production and employment have increased dramatically in Wyoming. This is primarily due to the development of large shallow surface reserves in the Powder River Basin. As of December 2017, Wyoming coal mines employed 5,687 miners and mine operations personnel, which is 5 more employees than in 2016 (Wyoming State Inspector of Mines Report, 2017).

Coal Distribution

More than 91 percent of the coal mined in Wyoming is shipped via rail to 29 other states. Coal-fired power plants in Texas, Illinois, and Missouri are the largest consumers of Wyoming coal. Most of the coal is used for steam to generate electricity at power plants, but a small amount is used at industrial plants and commercial facilities.

Excel iconQuarterly Coal Production
Excel file containing Wyoming's quarterly coal mine production and employment according to MSHA (Last update: first quarter, 2019).

Kelsey Kehoe (307) 766-2286 Ext. 233