2012 Excellence in Surface Coal Mining
National Award Winner
Dave Johnston Mine, Glenrock Coal Company, Glenrock, Wyoming
The National Award for Excellence in Surface Coal Mining was presented to the Dave Johnston Mine, a Glenrock Coal Company facility in Glenrock, Wyoming.
The Dave Johnston mine, which began operation in 1958, is located 14 miles north of Glenrock, covering more than 13-thousand acres, all of which are more than a mile above sea level. Typical of Wyoming, weather can be severe, with temperatures ranging from minus 30 in winter to 98 during a hot summer day, and winds average 15 miles per hour - every day.
Glenrock ended operations at the mine in September 2000, after exposing almost 5000 acres of short-grass prairie to produce more than 104 million tons of coal. But the company actually began reclamation on the mine in 1965, while still producing coal. By 2000, Glenrock had reclaimed about a third of the disturbed area. The remaining 3100 acres were reclaimed between 2000 and 2005.
Looking at photos 35 years apart, there is a stark contrast between the time when the mine was in operation, and as it stands today. But that is only part of the story. The mine sits in a semi arid portion of Wyoming, averaging 10 inches of precipitation each year. There are no permanent streams in the mine area, and only a few ephemeral watersheds. So, the pre-mining vegetation is sparse.
During reclamation, workers noticed ephemeral water seeping from highwalls. This led to the innovative water capture concept.
Typically, most western mine reclamation plans have focused on growing grass quickly to stabilize the soil. But that does not necessarily serve the entire ecosystem’s needs. As always, water, or the lack of it, will determine how much and how well reclamation can be done. When crews began backfilling the Dave Johnston mine, they noticed something; weeps were forming in highwalls and other areas. Water – that could be captured for use in reclamation.
Between 2001 and 2004, the company developed six of the weep areas into man-made springs. Using three different capture methods, the company placed discharge pipes into the soil, then built outfall tanks using old haul truck tires to hold the water. Each of the tanks provided between 12 and 17 gallons of water an hour, beginning in 2002.
Today, with all six providing water on a consistent basis, the mine site is home to mule deer, antelope, grouse, and other birds of prey. In addition, the mine is still producing electricity. It is home to 158 wind turbines constantly turning. 45 of those are on the reclaimed mine site.