Gillette Wyoming interests me very much.

Why would a tiny town of 25,829 in the middle of nowhere Wyoming be interesting?

Three words: Powder River Basin, which produces 25% of the nations supply of coal, mostly in the sub-bituminous form. This type of coal is used mostly by coal fired power plants like the Fayette Power Project and the Jefferson Energy Center.

In the year 2000, Coal plants produced 51.7% of the electrical requirements of the United States. Nuclear plants produced 19.8%, natural gas and oil combined produced 18.7%, hydro 7.2%, other (solar, wind, etc) 2.6%.

Given the fact that the prices of natural gas and oil have SPIKED and show no signs of dropping, that new nuclear plants aren't going to be built in the near future, and that there probably aren't many more locations where hydroelectric plants can be built - coal is going to become MUCH more significant to keeping our lights on and our machines running.

Gilette is smack dab in the middle of one of the largest coal reserves on earth. For an idea of the mining taking place there, check out this map of mines in the area. By my count, there are 12 active mines in the immediate area. The source of much of the following data was this website.

Foundation Coal Holdings, Inc owns 2: Belle Ayr Mine and the Eagle Butte Mine shipping a combined 43.6MM tons of coal in 2005 while employing 501 employees.

Arch Coal Inc (Thunder Basin Coal Company) owns the Black Thunder mine, the largest coal mine in the United States. In 2005 it produced 87.59MM tons of coal while employing 948 employees.

Rio Tinto Energy America claims to provide energy that meets 6% of US electrical needs. In the Powder River Basin of Wyoming alone, it operates 3 mines of it's 5 mines, producing a 105MM tons of coal per year. Cordero/Rojo Complex, 37.8MM, 527 employees. Jacobs Ranch, 37.3MM, 546 employees. Antelope, 30.0MM, 337 employees.

Peabody Energy Corp, the worlds largest private coal company, owns the Powder River Coal Company. "Peabody's three Powder River Basin mines operated at peak levels in 2005, shipping a record 125.7 million tons of coal and loading 7,800 trains." Specifically, these are the Caballo (30.5MM tons, 304 employees), the Rawhide (12.43MM tons, 131 employees) and the North Antelope/Rochelle Complex (82.7MM tons, 825 employees). Powder River Coal Company employed 1260 employees in the region in 2005.

Western Fuels Association, a cooperative non-profit owns the Dry Fork mine, which produced 4.09MM tons of coal in 2005 and employed 61 people.

Kiewit Mining Group Inc. (Part of Peter Kiewit Sons’, Inc., an employee owned company) owns the Buckskin Mining Company who's Buckskin mine produced 19.57MM tons with 202 employees in 2005.

Black Hills Corporation owns Wyodak Resources, which operates the Wyodak mine which in 2005 produced 4.7MM tons of coal with 68 employees.

I realize this is a lot of information to throw out. The bottom line is that these twelve mines produced a total of 390.25MM tons of coal in 2005 with 4,450 employees or about 87,700 tons EACH. As of 6/23/06 the spot price per ton for this coal was $12.25. This means that the mines are producing $1.07MM in revenue per employee.

The coal is moved mostly by Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail systems. According to BNSF's 2005 annual report, they added 1300 new coal cars to their system.

One other thing: The Gillette "region also contains major deposits of uranium" per Wiki. This area may be the primary source of energy for the United States in the next 50-100 years. Like I said, it's a very interesting place indeed.