Climate + Energy

Montana’s Coal Complex–A Photo Tour


Check out our photo tour of the Spring Creek and Decker coal mines in southeastern Montana.  Zoom in and see how these massive coal mining operations look on the ground.

The Spring Creek and Decker coal mines in southeastern Montana are the largest mines in the state and two of the largest coal mines in the U.S.

Both mines have also set their sights on exporting overseas as a lifeline to stay in business as coal demand continues to decline here in the U.S.  The Decker mine’s owner, Lighthouse Resources, makes no bones about the fact that the mine is “well positioned for Asian market.”  At Spring Creek, Cloud Peak Energy has cited “access to export terminals in the Pacific Northwest” as providing a “geographic advantage” for its operations.

Not surprisingly, both mines are also seeking new publicly owned coal leases to expand their reserves and ramp up production.

At Spring Creek, Cloud Peak Energy is seeking new coal leases to expand the mine by more than 1,700 acres and add nearly 200 million tons of coal reserves.

At Decker, Lighthouse Resources is seeking a new coal lease to expand the mine by 203 million tons of coal (details on Decker’s coal leasing request are no longer available on the Bureau of Land Management’s website).

With President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke moving to lift a moratorium on new federal coal leasing, you can expect that Spring Creek and Decker are going to become some major flashpoints.

After all, it’s one thing to lease publicly owned coal to generate electricity here in the U.S.  It’s another to lease coal so Cloud Peak and Lighthouse Resources can sell it overseas to get rich.

Check out our photo tour map and zoom in to see what these mines and their surroundings look like.  And stay tuned for more, the controversy surrounding Spring Creek and Decker is only going to grow.

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