The Gillette coalfield, within the Powder River Basin in east-central Wyoming, is the most prolific coalfield in the United States. In 2006, production from the coalfield totaled over 431 million short tons of coal, which represented over 37 percent of the Nation's total yearly production. The Anderson and Canyon coal beds in the Gillette coalfield contain some of the largest deposits of low-sulfur subbituminous coal in the world. By utilizing the abundance of new data from recent coalbed methane development in the Powder River Basin, this study represents the most comprehensive evaluation of coal resources and reserves in the Gillette coalfield to date. Eleven coal beds were evaluated to determine the in-place coal resources. Six of the eleven coal beds were evaluated for reserve potential given current technology, economic factors, and restrictions to mining. These restrictions included the presence of railroads, a Federal interstate highway, cities, a gas plant, and alluvial valley floors. Other restrictions, such as thickness of overburden, thickness of coal beds, and areas of burned coal were also considered.
The total original coal resource in the Gillette coalfield for all eleven coal beds assessed, and no restrictions applied, was calculated to be 201 billion short tons. Available coal resources, which are part of the original coal resource that is accessible for potential mine development after subtracting all restrictions, are about 164 billion short tons (81 percent of the original coal resource).
Recoverable coal, which is the portion of available coal remaining after subtracting mining and processing losses, was determined for a stripping ratio of 10:1 or less. After mining and processing losses were subtracted, a total of 77 billion short tons of coal were calculated (48 percent of the original coal resource).
Coal reserves are the portion of the recoverable coal that can be mined, processed, and marketed at a profit at the time of the economic evaluation. With a discounted cash flow at 8 percent rate of return, the coal reserves estimate for the Gillette coalfield is10.1 billion short tons of coal (6 percent of the original resource total) for the 6 coal beds evaluated.