(Chuck) July 15, 2015.
For many years we have wanted to do the coal mine tour that is given by the Gillette Visitors Center in Gillette, Wyoming. This was our year as weather and travel timing worked in our favor. The tour costs five dollars and leaves from the Visitors Center at 9:00 and 11:00 each day. You can get the information by calling the Visitors Center which is located by the Flying J Travel Center.
The tour from Gillette concerns the Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte Mines. These
two mines which are owned by the Alpha Coal West, Inc. are situated in the
Powder River area of central and South West Wyoming. There are vast resources of
coal available here and several mines are very active.
The seam of coal in this area is about 12 to 20 feet thick. It lies under
about 250 feet of soil which is called overburden. This overburden needs to be
continuously removed and placed back where the coal has been removed. This
process produces fields of reclaimed lands which are used for hay production and
grazing fields for herds of cattle.
The Eagle Butte Mine operates round the clock with four separate crews that
work 12 hour shifts. Pay scale is from $24 to $31 per hour. The haul trucks cost
about $4.3 million. They hold 1,200 gallons of diesel fuel, 315 gallons of
coolant and 155 gallons of engine oil. They can transport up to 250 tons of
product. They are powered by 16 cylinder engines with 2350 horsepower. Tires
cost $30,000 each. The electric powered shovels cost about 24 million each.
The whole operation is huge and it was a good tour of one of the large coal
producing areas in the interior of the country.
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