A couple of mines still exist

Most of the coal strip mining in Kansas ended in the 1980s, but there are two operations still active.

The Lucky Strike Mine in Linn County began operation in 2006. It provides coal to the La Cygne power plant. The mine is operated by Continental Coal Co. of Overland Park. The Kansas coal is blended with Wyoming powder coal for burning.

In Bourbon County, the Garland Mine is worked by the Phoenix Coal Co. of Vinita, Okla. The coal is supplied to Empire District Electric Co. power plants at Riverton and Oplis, Mo.

A limestone quarry in Crawford County operated by Mulberry Limestone Co. has produced some coal in quarry.

“They are small mines as mines go,” said Larry Brady, coal specialist at the Kansas Geological Survey.

Kansas coal is bituminous and doesn’t burn as cleanly as coal from the western United States, which is lower in sulfur and ash. As environmental laws and regulations toughened in the 1970s, Kansas coal was used less.

Power plants with the right scrubbing systems can take out the sulfur and ash in Kansas coal. Kansas coal has higher heat energy than western coals which is why it is used as a blend, Brady said.

Coal mining in Kansas has been regulated since 1969, and in the 1970s stricter federal regulations were enacted. Mining companies are required to level out the ridges and ditches left by the digging. The topsoil has to be replaced. The area is supposed to be reseeded. Exposed coal waste must be buried.

Before regulation, strip-mined land was abandoned and left to grow back on its own.