The global concern over rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere and subsequent effects of climate change we are seeing particularly in the Arctic can be attributed to the burning of fossil fuels.

    The burning of coal is the main contributor to electrical generation in the U. S. as well as many other places in the world.

    Graph showing importance of coal in electricity generation.

    In Alaska most of that coal comes from the Usibelli Coal Mine located 5 miles away across the George Parks Highway from the University of Florida Research Station on the Stampede Road. This is an interesting dichotomy. On one hand groundbreaking research is being conducted on what happens to tundra that is warmed by 2-3C. This research was instigated by concern over climate change. On the other hand dominating part of the view from CiPEHR is a mine ranked 24th in the U.S. for production of coal which the burning of is a major contributor to climate change.

    CiPEHR and Coal Mine
    This is the view looking east from the Universtity of Florida Research Site off the Stampede Road in Healy, AK. In the distance you can see the Usibelli Coal Mine. It is ranked 24th in the U.S. in coal production.

    Usibelli Coal Mine has a long history in interior Alaska.

    Though Alaska is an energy rich state it also ranks high with its long winters and large area in energy consumption per capita.

    This graph shows the amount of electricity used per capita per state in the U.S.

    Usibelli Coal Mine is 4th generation family owned. It’s development in the early 1900’s by Emil Usibelli and continued operation has had a significant impact on the development in interior Alaska. Fairbanks, Eielson Air Force base, Ft. Wainwright, Clear Air Force Station, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks plus many other communities rely on electricity from coal-fired generating plants. That coal comes from the Usibelli Mine.

    UAF Powerplant
    The University of Alaska-Fairbanks Central Heat and Power Plant was constructed in 1964. The plant operates two stoker boilers and three steam turbines with 13 megawatts capability. The plant burns approximately 60,000 tons of coal per year. The plant also provides space heat and air conditioning on campus. Picture courtesy of Pam Miller.

    Mine Mouth Plant
    The Healy Clean Coal Project plant a 50-megawatt plant is co-located with Golden Valley Electric Association's Healy #1 power plant a 25-megawatt pulverized coal plant. HCCP is the larger light gray building and utilizes the tall exhaust stack.

    In addition, Usibelli Mine ships coal to foreign markets through the Seward Coal Terminal.

    Seward Coal Terminal
    This is a picture of the coal terminal located in Seward, AK. Coal from the Usibelli Mine is shipped to markets in South Korea and South America. Picture courtesy of Alaska Railroad Corporation.

    The Usibelli Mine is known as open pit mine. Coal seams are accessed by blasting and removing overlying layers (overburden). The coal is then removed. After the overburden is replaced and shaped it is then reseeded.

    Coal Seams
    These are coal seams located on the north side of Healy Creek Valley near what was once the Suntrana Mine and adjacent town. This area was bustling in the 1920's and 30's but now the town and mine no longer exist.

    The blasting of overburden.

    Mining Equipment
    This is the Bucyrus-Erie 1300W Dragline installed at Usibelli Mine in 1977-78. It is the main workhorse at Usibelli Mine responsible for overburden removal then material replacement for reclamation. Picture courtesy of UCM.

    Mining Equipment
    The O &K RH170 Backhoe and 785 95 ton Dump Truck are some of the heavy equipment used at Usibelli Mine to remove overburden and to load and haul coal. Picture courtesy of UCM.

    Reclamation can take many years. This area at the Poker Flats Mine is the large open area you see clearly from CiPEHR. Reclamation efforts began with seeding 10 years ago. Hopefully local flora and fauna will eventually reclaim this space.

    Poker Flats
    This picture is of the on-going reclamation efforts at Poker Flats Mine which is part of the Usibelli Coal Mine in Healy. Picture courtesy of UCM.