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Our Mines

How We Mine

Step 1 – Estimate Coal Seams
Teams of geologists and engineers estimate quantity, quality and depth of coal in a proposed area through a variety of proven methods, utilizing computer modeling software and data including information from core drilling.
Step 2 – Evaluate Environmental Factors
Environmental engineers and reclamation specialists evaluate a proposed area carefully, considering location, terrestrial and aquatic resources, topography, proximity to residents, and many other factors.
Step 3 – Develop Mine Plan
Mining engineers outline how to mine and restore the property once mining is complete through computer-aided sequencing and three-dimensional modeling.
Step 4 – Analyze Costs
Financial analysts work with mine managers to determine the costs involved in mining a particular piece of land based on coal seam and environmental evaluations.
Step 5 – Seek Permits
If the cost-analysis justifies mining coal in a particular area, we begin the permitting process. Mining is heavily regulated by state and federal agencies, including the Office of Surface Mining, Bureau of Land Management, Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as the appropriate state and local entities. Typically, it takes several years to obtain all the necessary permits to mine coal in the U.S.
Step 6 – Mine the Coal
When planning is completed and all permits granted, mining begins. Seams of coal may be close to the surface or buried deep underground. Surface mining is the technique used when coal is found near the surface. Underground mining is used to extract coal lying deep beneath the surface. Surface mines use large earth-moving equipment, such as draglines, shovels and loaders. Underground mines use longwall systems or continuous miners.
Step 7 – Ship Coal to Customers
Some coal is cleaned, sorted and crushed to different sizes at preparation plants before loading for delivery, while other coal is shipped raw. Coal is usually loaded and shipped by railroad or river barge. Arch ships most production to electric utilities that burn coal to generate electricity. We mine low-sulfur coal exclusively.
Step 8 – Reclaim the Land
Reclamation is carefully planned, and is part of the total process from start to finish. Environmental experts work with landowners, state and federal officials and other interested parties to determine the most desirable use of the land. Therefore, reclamation varies from area to area and site to site. There are many uses for reclaimed land, including farming, grazing, commercial forestry, fish and wildlife habitat, economic development projects, and recreational activities like hunting, fishing and golfing.
With new technology and improving scientific methods, it’s often hard to tell which land has been mined and which hasn’t. See for yourself in this series of photos taken on Arch’s reclaimed mine lands.