Lee Ranch Mine
Lee Ranch Mine, located about 35 miles northwest of Grants, N.M., was opened in 1984 by Santa Fe Pacific Minerals to supply coal to Western Fuels Association and Tucson Electric Power under long-term contracts. Other customers include Arizona Public Service and Arizona Electric Power Cooperative. Unit trains shift the coal to power plants in New Mexico and Arizona. Lee Ranch mine shipped 800,000 tons of coal in 2012, and owns or controls approximately 144 million tons of recoverable low sulfur coal reserves.
A workforce of approximately 30 uses a combination of dragline, and truck and shovel for overburden removal to uncover between three and five coal seams ranging from one- to six-feet thick. Coal loading is done by front-end loaders. The coal is hauled from the pit by truck to the processing plant for sizing, sampling, analysis and blending to customer specifications. The trains are loaded from three 15,000-ton silos. A 60-inch belt conveyor delivers the coal from the silos to a batch weighing system that loads each car to capacity. It takes approximately four hours to load a 100-plus car unit train.
In 2006, Lee Ranch was honored by the U.S. Department of Labor for operating the safest surface mine in the United States. In 2009, the mine was also honored with the Outstanding Safe Operator of the Year Award by the New Mexico Mining Association. Since its first year of operation in 1985, Lee Ranch has been honored more than 12 times as New Mexico’s safest coal mine with a workforce of fewer than 250. Sponsored by the New Mexico State Mine Inspector and New Mexico Mining Association, the Outstanding Safe Operator Award was created specifically for Lee Ranch to recognize the mine’s unparalleled safety performance. Lee Ranch Mine also received the 1994 Excellence in Surface Mining Reclamation Award from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining.