“This award is a testament to our employees at Antelope mine and their commitment to pioneering reclamation practices,” said Colin Marshall, Cloud Peak Energy’s president and CEO. “We recognize that mining is a temporary use of the land and are very proud of our long-standing environmental record of returning land that has been mined back in as good or better condition than when we began. Our reclamation efforts will continue to be an important part of the mining process.”
“The work at the Antelope mine to control cheatgrass has been an ongoing effort and involved significant research and development,” said Steve Cowan, Antelope mine general manager. “We hope the techniques developed here will help those in the mining and energy sectors as well as agriculture and others to continue to improve reclamation around the country.”
Through innovative husbandry practices and custom seeding techniques, the Antelope mine has effectively restored reclamation areas dominated by cheatgrass. This technology is applicable to both reclaimed and native lands. The Antelope mine has successfully transformed more than 400 acres of cheatgrass-dominated lands into sustainable native perennial stands that achieve the post-mining land use goal of providing for livestock grazing and wildlife use.
“The reclamation practices developed at the Antelope mine have landscape scale application to reclaimed and native grassland environments where cheatgrass has become the dominant and undesirable plant species,” said Kyle Wendtland, Antelope mine environmental manager. “We believe that potential long-term benefits for species like sage-grouse and sharp-tailed grouse exist by taking sound, science-based steps to develop strategies improving habitat on reclamation and native grassland environments.”
Cheatgrass is not very palatable for domestic livestock and wildlife, reduces habitat value, and has a preference for establishment on disturbed sites. Cheatgrass has infested an estimated 50 to 53 million acres on the Western landscape and has made it a challenge to achieve consistent native grass-dominated communities on disturbed land surfaces.
The husbandry practice that has been developed at the Antelope mine uses an implement specifically designed by the mine to mechanically remove cheatgrass, stimulate establishment of existing perennial species, and develop a diverse, native-plant community without the risk and ecological setbacks that herbicides, re-farming, and prescribed burning pose. The resulting plant community and successional process is sustainable and able to achieve bond release.
Reclamation stands established with sustainable native-plant communities create a diverse landscape and improve habitat for elk, mule deer and antelope. Long-term benefits also include the means to improve habitat for sage-grouse and sharp-tailed grouse. The reclamation efforts at the Antelope mine demonstrate Cloud Peak Energy’s voluntary commitment to enhance the science of reclamation and improve biodiversity. High-quality land reclamation at the Antelope mine has been successfully completed on approximately 4,050 acres.
In 2013, the Antelope mine sold approximately 31.4 million tons of coal, making it the fourth-largest coal mine in the U.S. last year.