2012 Excellence in Surface Coal Mining
National Award Winner
North Antelope Rochelle Mine, Peabody Powder River Mining, LLC, Wright, Wyoming
The National Award for Excellence in Surface Coal Mining was presented to the North Antelope Rochelle Mine, a Peabody Energy Coal Company facility in Wright, Wyoming.
The North Antelope complex is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including its namesake, the Pronghorn antelope.
The complex is actually two mining permits merged into one. The original North Antelope mine began operations in 1983. The Rochelle mine started in 1985. The company merged the two in 1999, and together, they produced 109 million tons of coal in 2011. The complex employs approximately 1300 people. The complex is also large, with 46-thousand acres permitted. The area, about 65 miles southeast of Gillette, is semi-arid, but supports several forms of shrubs and grasses. The resident wildlife population includes mule deer, pronghorn, elk, sage-grouse, and numerous raptor species, including a variety of eagles, hawks, owls, and kestrels.
Since Peabody began operations, it has reclaimed about 6000 acres, primarily for use as livestock grazing land. The company also recognizes the need to promote and enhance wildlife habitat, including building reservoirs, wetlands and planting vegetation.
One of the raptor species the company studied during its emphasis on protecting bird of prey populations. This ferruginous hawk was tracked via a small transmitter.
The company took a special interest in state and federal requirements that protect raptors during and after mining. Peabody carried out baseline wildlife studies prior to mining and documented 245 raptor nests in approximately 117 square miles. The company identified potential disturbances for nesting raptors, hired and funded a wildlife consultant, and developed mitigation plans to minimize the impacts of coal production.
One of the artificial nest platforms the company built to minimize nesting impacts during mining.
To help raptor breeding continue, the company made development of potential nest areas a priority, and also planned to move some nests as mining progressed. One method of keeping mated pairs near the area included building and installing artificial nest platforms. The company also contracted and funded a local non-profit bird rescue and rehabilitation facility.
A ferruginous hawk atop one of the platforms.
The success of the mitigation program is easily visible. Despite continued mining, the company has successfully maintained viable eagle, hawk, owl, and kestrel populations onsite. And, Peabody believes, it has developed a regime that is easily transferable across different kinds of mining and national borders.
A golden eagle chick sits in a nest near the rail line serving North Antelope.
A closer view of the chick near the rail line.