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The Most Productive Coal Mine in the World

Out in Wyoming, near rancher land, rests the single largest coal mine in the world—the North Antelope Rochelle mine.Situated in the Powder River B...

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|Nov 14|magazine4 min read

Out in Wyoming, near rancher land, rests the single largest coal mine in the world—the North Antelope Rochelle mine.

Situated in the Powder River Basin, this massive undertaking in energy extraction, with its jutting structures and massive hauling vehicles, dominates the landscape. Owned and operated by Peabody Energy, the North Antelope Rochelle mine spans about 100 square miles, according to Scott Durgin, senior vice president of Powder River Basin operations.

“You’re looking at the world’s largest mine,” Durgin told The Guardian. “This is one of the biggest seams you will ever see. This particular shovel is one of the largest shovels you can buy, and that is the largest truck you can buy.”

The Powder River Basin is so prolific that operations there have caused Wyoming to overtake West Virginia and Kentucky as the largest coal production state in the nation. In fact, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), about 7.072 million tonnes of coal was produced in Wyoming last week alone. By comparison, West Virginia, the runner up, produced roughly 1.891 million tonnes over the same period of time, meaning Wyoming had about 374 percent of their output.

Inside the North Antelope Rochelle mine itself, which as The Guardian pointed out is roughly the size of Washington D.C., is a company-estimated 3 billion tonnes of coal reserves. While it’s difficult to even comprehend the amount of energy in that much coal, it can be put another way.

The EIA estimates that in 2013, coal accounted for roughly 39 percent of U.S. energy generation. Chris Curran of Peabody told The Guardian that roughly 12 percent of that coal came from the North Antelope Rochelle mine alone. That means that about 4.68 percent of the country’s energy comes from that mine alone.