Surface Mining

Much of Colorado’s coal is shallow enough to mine from the surface. There have been 72 surface coal mines in Colorado’s history. They range in size from small ranch mines where ranchers used coal from the ground to heat their homes, to over 100 million tons in size,like the Colowyo Mine in Moffat County. Today there are only three operating surface coal mines: the Colowyo Mine, the Trapper Mine near Craig, also in Moffat County, and the New Horizon Mine near Nucla in Montrose County. The surface coal mines remove coal by shovel and dragline. The dragline removes the overburden, and the excavators, trucks, shovels, and front end loaders remove coal straight from the ground. The highwall is the excavated cliff showing the overburden and coal seams to be mined. This benched rock face can be up to 500 ft high. In 2010, over 5 million tons of coal was mined by surface methods.

map of coal surface mine locations in Colorado