For the first time in nearly four decades, the state of Wyoming has granted approval for a new coal mine.
But there's a twist: Coal from the 15,000-acre Brook Mine near Sheridan will be used to develop alternative uses for coal, beyond burning it.
The new Brook mine is located in a traditional mining area outside of Sheridan and involves one of the largest private coal/carbon ore reserves in the country.
Carbon technology company Ramaco Carbon is behind the project. The company is based in Sheridan, with operations in both Wyoming and West Virginia. It specializes in advancing new carbon technologies and products, such as carbon fiber, carbon building products and graphene.
Pre-mine development work at the site is expected to get underway this summer, and Ramaco Carbon says it intends to employ local Wyoming miners affected by the industry’s current downturn. The initial opening of the Brook Mine is anticipated to create 30 to 40 direct mining jobs.
Ramaco Carbon Chairman and CEO Randall Atkins says if successful, the company has the potential to revitalize a key facet of both the state and national economy.
“Wyoming produces more coal than any state in the country, and this project potentially heralds a true sea-change in direction for the industry,” said Atkins. “Through the research and manufacturing efforts of our coalition of partners, this mine can help build a new Carbon Valley in the Powder River basin region, and create high-value, high-tech, environmental uses for coal, America’s largest natural resource.”
The Brook Mine contains over one billion tons of thermal coal reserves and is located on the site of previous coal mines that date back to the 19th century.
“This mine has the strongest environmental and quality of life protections of any coal mine permit ever considered in Wyoming,” said Jeff Barron of Western Water Consultants, Inc. the principal permitting engineer for the Brook Mine. “As it moves from this long approval process into reality, I think the Sheridan community will realize it’s a great long-term, socio-economic benefit to the whole area.”
Production from the new Brook Mine will ultimately serve as feedstock for research and manufacturing efforts at Ramaco Carbon's iCAM (Innovation Carbon Advanced Material Center) in Sheridan, now in the final stages of construction. The company says when completed, it will be the world’s only vertically integrated carbon resource-based research, development, and production facility.
Ramaco Carbon's future plans also entail a new iPark manufacturing center, described as a mine-mouth coal to product manufacturing facility, with zero net emissions. The iPark would be built next to the Brook Mine, usingcoal from the mine to create high-value carbon products including carbon fiber, graphite, carbon-based building products, medical products and activated carbon.
Ramaco Carbon's partners in the project include the Oak Ridge National Energy Laboratory as well as the National Energy Technology Laboratory.