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Energy Capitol of the USA

sunny 75 °F

Howdy Folks;

Two days activities rolled into one blog. Wednesday began with a seminar on Tire Safety, and the Importance of Proper Air Pressure. I learned the importance of having my MH weighed, that is to say, the weight pressing on each of the 4 corners of the coach. Of'times loads are unbalanced putting undue pressure on one side or the other. Must have that done.
In the afternoon I fulfilled my first volunteer obligation by driving a golf cart around for 3 hrs. offering attendees rides to wherever they wanted to go. It was fun for I met folks from all parts of the country. I will do another shift on Sat. aft. For a change of pace I drove my TOAD into town for dinner at a Steak & Chop Restaurant. I ate at the bar and met this nice guy, Mike. He and his wife recently moved to WY from California and are so happy with their decision. They have a small 'ranch' (5 acres) on the edge of town with horses, chickens, etc. He works for a Swiss firm who sells equipment to the mining industry.

After visiting the Caterpiller World Headquarters in Peoria, IL last year I have been intrigued with the giant equipment they manufacture for the mining industry. Wyoming has coal mines. There are 17 active ones which produce 39% of American coal (3 times the amount of WV). In all, the USA has 853 coal mines in various states across the country. Besides the US, China & Australia have the largest coal mines in the world.
Wyoming's mines are strip mines, meaning the 'overburden' or soil covering the coal seams is scraped off or removed and displaced. After the coal has been stripped out then the overburden is placed back, covered with topsoil, then plants and trees are replanted to 'make the land as close to 'as it was' before the mining took place. It sounds simple but the enormity of these sites (1,000 acres total) are difficult to describe.
Our bus tour took us down into the Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines, located just north of Gillette. There we saw giant machines removing coal from a vein 100' thick. It took but 3 scoops from these machines to fill the beds of enormous dump trucks. The trucks are two stories high, have 6 tires of 12' diameter each and when loaded carry 240 tons of coal. One dump truck load fills 2 train cars. Our driver, a petite lady school teacher, drove one of these dump trucks last year during her summer break from school. The mines operate 24/7 365 days a year. The drivers, she said, work 12 hr. shifts with a 1/2 hr. break for a meal in a trailer building at the fuel point while the trucks are being refueled. (The mine equipment consumes 14 M gallons of diesel fuel annually) Drivers earn from $25.09 - $32.42/hr. with 1 1/2 X for overtime, and 3X for holidays.
The mine company owns, among other giant equipment, 22 dump trucks, valued at $3.8 M each, and all operate round the clock, stopping only for maintenance, repairs, or driver shift-change. These two mines, now operate at a depth of 440', have been operational for the past 40 years (1972) and are expected to produce until 2038.
The coal truck loads are dumped into a crusher which reduces it to 2" or less in size. It is then 'conveyored' into 4 giant silos 70' dia. x 210' tall. Through a 'train-car size' opening in the bottom of the silos run the railroad tracks. The train coal cars are loaded from the solos at the rate of one/minute with a full 120-140 car train assembled for shipment every two hours. As full trains leave for the railyards at North Platte, NE empty ones arrive in a continual non-stop loop, 24/7 365 days a year. At North Platte, which I visited & observed in last year's travels, the coal train is broken apart and the cars are assigned to newly assembled trains destined to where the orders for coal await; north, south, east, or west. American capitolism working at its best!

Posted by dixter 12:42 Archived in USA Tagged coal mines gillette's

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