The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Geological Survey of Wyoming, and U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM), has produced an estimate of the amount of available coal in an area about 35 miles south of Gillette, Wyo., where the Wyodak coal bed is, in places, more than 100 ft thick. Available coal is the quantity of the total coal resource that is accessible for mine development under current regulatory, land-use, and technologic constraints. This first western coal availability study, of the Hilight 7 1/2-minute quadrangle, indicates that approximately 60 percent (2.7 billion short tons) of the total 4.4 billion tons of coal in-place in the quadrangle is available for development. (There has been no commercial mining in the Hilight quadrangle.) Approximately 67 percent (1.9 billion tons) of the Main Wyodak coal bed is considered available. All tonnage measurements in this report are given in short tons.
Coal-development considerations in the quadrangle include dwellings, railroads, pipelines, power lines, wildlife habitat (eagles), alluvial valley floors, cemeteries, and the Hilight oil and gas field and gas plant. Some of these considerations could be mitigated so that surface mining of the coal may proceed; others could not be mitigated and would preclude mining in their vicinity. Other technological constraints that influence the availability of the coal include overburden thickness, coal beds too thin, and areas of clinker.