Colowyo Mine

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Colowyo Mine is a U.S. open-pit surface mine in Axial, Colorado, owned by the Colowyo Coal Company, a subsidiary of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.


The below satellite image shows the location of the mine in Axial, CO.

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Project Details

  • Sponsor: Colowyo Coal Company LP
  • Parent company: Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association
  • Location: Axial, Colorado, United States
  • GPS coordinates: 40.241141, -107.8307942 (exact)
  • Status: Operating
  • Production Capacity: 2 million tons per year
  • Total Resources:
  • Mineable Reserves: 22 million tons[1]
  • Coal Type: Sub-bituminous
  • Mine Size: 29,000 acres[2]
  • Mine Type: Surface
  • Start Year: 1977

Project Expansion Details

  • Status: Operating
  • Production Capacity: 2.3 million tons per year (1.5 mtpa in 2019) [3]
  • Mineable Reserves: 79 million tons[4]
  • Mine Expansion Size: 3,573 acres[3]
  • Start Year: 2019 (proposed)
  • Source of Financing:


The Colowyo Coal mine is located approximately 26 miles southwest of Craig, CO, and 22 miles north-northeast of Meeker, CO, west of Colorado Highway 13/789 in southwest Moffat and northern Rio Blanco Counties.[5]

Coal has been mined on a commercial scale in the Colowyo Coal mine area for over 100 years. Coal was mined by underground mining techniques until 1974 when the underground mines closed. In 1977, Colowyo initiated its first surface mining operation at the Colowyo Coal mine, to access thinner coal seams located closer to the surface than the seams historically developed through underground mining.[5]

The Colowyo mine is one of two fuel suppliers to Tri-State’s Craig Station.[2] In 2009, Colowyo's then-operator, Rio Tinto, stated that the Colowyo Coal Company intended to fulfill long-term contracts with two power generators located in northwest Colorado until 2017, with the intention to cease production in 2018."[6]


Colowyo's South Taylor Pit, which is currently being mined, has about a four-year supply of coal left.

Colowyo is in the process of beginning mining operations at the Collom Pit. Infrastructure construction began in April 2017 and is scheduled to be completed in October 2018, with the first coal scheduled to be produced in January 2019.[7] The coal leasing process for the Collom Project began more than a decade ago. The first federal lease application was submitted in 2005. An environmental assessment was completed in August 2006 and indicated the project would create no significant negative impact. A mine permit revision was submitted to the state in 2009 and approved four years later, following another environmental assessment. The second assessment was completed in 2016 and again found no significant impact.[8] The air pollution permit, which was amended in October 2019 to reduce the mine's use of ammonium nitrate/fuel for blasting rock and also to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, is currently pending approval.[9]

According to Tri-State, the Collom Project was initially expected to extend Colowyo’s operations for approximately 35 years.[8] However, in January 2020, Tri-State announced that they would close Colowyo Mine and the Craig Station power plant by 2030, shortening the life of the Collom Pit to only 10 years.[10] In 2019, production began in the Collum pit.

Articles and resources

Related articles


  1. Colowyo Mine Union Pacific Railroad, accessed November 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Colowyo Mine Elk Ridge Mining and Reclamation, accessed November 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Colowyo Coal Mine, Collom Permit Expansion Area Project Mining Plan Environmental Assessment Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, accessed November 2019.
  4. "Moffat County's Colowyo mine taking strides toward securing area's future" Craig Press, Apr. 19, 2018.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Collom Permit Expansion Area Project: Environmental Assessment Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement & Bureau of Land Management, Jan. 2016.
  6. "Review of Operations" Rio Tinto, 2009 Annual Report, 2010.
  7. "Energy Blend: Colowyo mine looks toward expansion, reclamation" Craig Press, Nov. 2, 2018.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Still no railroad, but Colowyo expansion extends life of mine" The Herald Times, June 14, 2018.
  9. "Colowyo Coal Amending Air Pollution Permit for Collom Mine Expansion, Colorado" The Mining Connection, Oct. 3, 2019.
  10. "Colowyo closure will impact 46 Meeker-area employees," "The Herald Times," Niki Turner.

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