The world's largest coal mine, in Wyoming, barrels on.

Guardian: “In the world’s biggest coalmine, even a 400 tonne truck looks like a toy. Everything about the scale of Peabody Energy’s operations in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming is big and the mines are only going to get bigger”
“– despite new warnings from the United Nations on the dangerous burning of fossil fuels, despite Barack Obama’s promises to fight climate change, and despite reports that coal is in its death throes.
At the east pit of Peabody’s North Antelope Rochelle mine, the layer of coal takes up 60ft of a 250ft trough in the earth, and runs in an interrupted black stripe for 50 miles.
With those vast, easy-to-reach deposits, Powder River has overtaken West Virginia and Kentucky as the big coalmining territory. The pro-coal Republicans’ takeover of Congress in the mid-term elections also favours Powder River.
“You’re looking at the world’s largest mine,” said Scott Durgin, senior vice-president for Peabody’s operations in the Powder River Basin, watching the giant machinery at work. “This is one of the biggest seams you will ever see. This particular shovel is one of the largest shovels you can buy, and that is the largest truck you can buy.”
By Durgin’s rough estimate, the mine occupies 100 square miles of high treeless prairie, about the same size as Washington DC. It contains an estimated three billion tonnes of coal reserves. It would take Peabody 25 or 30 years to mine it all.
But it’s still not big enough.
On the conference room wall, a map of North Antelope Rochelle shows two big shaded areas containing an estimated one billion tonnes of coal. Peabody is preparing to acquire leasing rights when they come up in about 2022 or 2024. “You’ve got to think way ahead,” said Durgin.
….Coal is also facing competition from cheap natural gas. Peabody had a very bad year in 2013, losing $525m (£328m) as global demand for coal flatlined.
But despite the promises from Obama and other world leaders the use of coal for energy rose again last year in America, Europe and in Asia – and so did the emissions that cause climate change.
Peabody continued to post losses this year. But extraction and revenue from the Powder River Basin mines went up – and company officials say they could ship out even more coal if they could just get the trains to run on time.
On an average day, 21 long freight trains full of coal leave North Antelope Rochelle bound for 100 power plants across the country. But the company says that’s still not enough. As for climate change – that’s hardly Peabody’s concern.
….As it turns out, the company’s official position is that there is no such thing as human-caused climate change. “We do not question the climate changing. It has been changing for as long as man has recorded history,” Svec said. Climate change was a “modelled crisis”, he went on.
America gets about 40% of its electricity from coal – and by far the biggest share of that coal comes from Powder River. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), its use of coal for energy rose 4.8% last year, in part because of the Arctic blasts of the polar vortex. Carbon dioxide emissions from energy registered one of their steepest rises in the last quarter century.
Australia, where Peabody has three mines and which has the world’s second largest reserves of coal, has ramped up production 37% since 2000, helped by up to $3.5bn in government subsidies to the entire fossil fuel industry, a forthcoming report from the Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change Internationalwill say.
China has doubled its use of coal over the last decade. India is preparing to open its large coal reserves to foreign mining companies to meet a promise to hook up the 400 million without electricity on to the grid in the next five years.
Coal use in Germany rose last year for the third year in a row, even as the country met its ambitious targets to transition to wind and solar power. Poland has been promoting its coal as an alternative to Russian natural gas.
Overall global coal use rose 3% last year, faster than any other fossil fuel, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.
But the reality is that Obama has spent the last six years expanding coal, oil and gas production under his “all of the above” energy strategy.
….Coal exports have risen on Obama’s watch, with mining companies shipping some 100m tonnes a year for each of the last three years. Mining companies are actively pursuing plans to expand coal ports and ship more coal overseas, as a back-up market should the incoming Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules on carbon pollution make it harder to burn coal for electricity.
….Mitch McConnell, the Republicans’ leader in the Senate ran on a slogan of “Guns, Freedom and Coal”.
But even before the mid-terms, campaigners say the rise in coal use under Obama undermines his climate agenda and could wipe out efforts by other countries to fight climate change. Last July, a judge in Colorado agreed, throwing out a mining permit granted by the Bureau of Land Management on the grounds that it would worsen climate change.
What’s especially frustrating, campaigners say, is that Powder River Basin coal is on public lands, which means that Obama could intervene to limit future mines.
….“We have never seen leases of more than a billion tonnes and we are starting to see that under the Obama Administration,” Nichols said.”