Hydrologic Considerations in Mined Land Reclamation

by Patrick T. Tyrrell, Thunder Basin Coal Co, Wright, United States,
Martin W. Stearns, Thunder Basin Coal Co, Wright, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Irrigation and Drainage: Saving a Threatened Resource—In Search of Solutions


Thunder Basin Coal Company (TBCC), a subsidiary of the Atlantic Richfield Company, operates the Black Thunder Mine in the Powder River Basin of Northeast Wyoming. The mine, located roughly fifty miles south-southeast of Gillette (Figure 1), produces about thirty million tons of sub-bituminous coal annually and has a cumulative production since 1977 of over 250 million tons. These statistics make Black Thunder the largest coal mine in the free world, and likely on the planet. Production of this magnitude requires reclamation on a similar scale. At the Black Thunder Mine, efforts are constantly underway to restore theessential hydrologic functions of surface and groundwater systems. Without hydrologic and land use restoration as a high priority, the reclamation of surface mined lands would be little more than backfilling the pit. The Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), enacted in 1977, prevents this from happening. To assure the long-term success of hydrologic restoration, both for environmental and bond release reasons, there are a number of approaches TBCC has taken that are put into practice on a daily basis. Through these practices both water quantity and quality are protected.

Subject Headings: Land reclamation | Hydrology | Basins | Water reclamation | Water quality | Water resources | Mines and mining | Ecological restoration | Wyoming | United States

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