San Juan Mine

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San Juan coal mine is located 25 kilometers west of Farmington, New Mexico. It supplies the San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico.


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The mine is operated by San Juan Coal Company, a subsidiary of New Mexico Coal, which in turn is wholly owned by BHP Billiton. It produces close to 7 million short tons of coal annually. It was created to replace the San Juan and La Plata surface mines.[1]

BHP Billiton states that the mine, which employs 576 people, "consists of an underground mine accessed via the high wall of the now closed open cut mine ... The underground mine is a single longwall operation. Reclamation of the closed surface mines will continue for three years."[2]

In May 2015 BHP Billiton said it had a tentative agreement to sell the San Juan Mine to Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Company by the end of the year. BHP's agreement to supply coal to the San Juan Generating Station expires in 2017. The in-principle "Coal Supply Agreement" with Westmoreland would expire in 2022.[3]

CO2 emisisons

The San Juan Mine released more than 600,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2012, according to EPA records.

Under new guidelines released in 2010, mines that release more than 100,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalent are required to obtain a Clean Air Act Title V permit. The permit also requires them to disclose various air pollution releases.

A reporting permit was issued in December 2013 to BHP Billiton for the mine - among the first ever proposed for a coal mine. The permit does not currently require any controls in emissions, but offers more transparency and greater scrutiny of mine releases, and helps environmental groups ensure company compliance with the Clean Air Act.[4]

Fire Breaks out at San Juan Mine

On September 10, 2011 an underground fire broke out in the San Juan Mine, at which point the mine was evacuated by miners. BHP Billiton believed they had was attempting to confirm that an underground coal fire that began three days earlier at San Juan Mine was extinguished.

"We are progressing in a methodical and cautious manner," Norman Benally, BHP Billiton New Mexico Coal spokesman, said in a prepared statement. Nobody was injured during the fire.[5]

Water Contamination

In December 2009, the Sierra Club issued notice of their intent to sue San Juan Coal Company for contaminating the groundwater near the San Juan mine. The Sierra Club alleges that more than 40 million tons of coal ash and sludge have been illegally dumped into unlined pits, resulting in contamination of nearby waterways and wells.[6]

Mine Data

  • Owner: San Juan Coal Company
  • Parent company: Westmoreland Coal
  • Location: 25 km west of Farmington, New Mexico
  • GPS coordinates: 36.801262 N, 108.431025 W
  • Annual Production: 6,898,040 short tons
  • Reserves: 10.38 million tonnes (Proven and Probable, 2017) [7]
  • Type of coal:
  • Mine type: underground
  • Equipment:
  • Number of employees: 576

Articles and resources

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  1. “New Mexico Coal”, BHP Billiton site, accessed May 2009.
  2. BHP Billiton, "New Mexico Coal", BHP Billiton website, accessed June 2010.
  3. Dan Schwartz, "BHP reaches tentative agreement to sell mine," The Daily Times, May 2, 2015
  4. Manuel Quiñones, "New EPA permitting system moves forward haltingly for coal mines," E&E, December 5, 2013.
  5. "San Juan Mine fire may be extinguished" Chuck Slothowever, Daily Times, September 13, 2011.
  6. "Environmental group plans to sue over coal ash at San Juan mine", Marjorie Childress, The New Mexico Independent, December 29, 2009.
  7. Mining Data Solutions, "San Juan Mine", Mining Data Online website, Accessed May 2021

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