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The Coal Land Resources Program is the primary source of coal-related scientific data for the State of Montana. The program locates and quantifies coal resources and combines geologic and hydrogeologic research, data collection, data interpretation, and dissemination of coal-related information. Users of the program include coal mining companies, electric utilities and other industries, owners, regulators, and individuals or organizations involved in coal development decisions and issues.
Resources available at MBMG offices in Butte and Billings include state-of-the-art computers, analytical services, and professional and technical staff. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) projects are based on ARC/INFO and GSMAP software on UNIX workstations. Other recent software enhancements include the capability to do stratigraphic correlations on coalbed and geochemical data using stratifacts and the capability to provide accurate volume calculations for coal resources using GRASS scripts. In addition, the MINCOM suite of software is available for modeling and visualizing mine plans, geologic interpretations, and geochemical information.
Recent and ongoing Coal Availability studies in the Powder River Basin are providing updated estimates of the amounts of coal actually available for mining under current technological and land-use restrictions imposed by Federal and State regulations. A new coal-quality assessment program is being planned for the Fort Union region to help assess Montana coals with respect to the Clean Air Act Amendments for 1990 (National Coal Quality Inventory or NaCQI). Recent geologic mapping is currently available in most of eastern Montana and may be used for better definitions of coal-producing environments and how they affect quality parameters. Currently, the impacts of mining on the hydrogeologic systems near Decker, Colstrip, and in the Bull Mountains area are being investigated. Surface-water studies are undertaken as needed.
Stratigraphy, lithology, thickness, and location information pertaining to coal are available in the MBMG's 3D,the digital Data Delivery system as well as the National Coals Resources Data System (NCRDS) database. MBMG personnel have been entering data for this program since 1981, and it currently contains more the 5,000 locations throughout the State. Geochemical information on the overburden in some areas is also available. More than 25 years of water-level and water-quality data are included in the hydrogeologic database, making this groundwater database the most extensive available in Montana.
The goal of the program is to promote responsible development of Montana's abundant coal resources. By combining hydrologic and geologic data in all coal-related studies, a more complete understanding of our natural coal resources can be attained, and more comprehensive information can be provided to industry and the public.