Excavation of a future cemetery in Gillette found an estimated 180,000 cubic yards of coal. The planners of the Mount Nebo cemetery realized the 105-acre site had some coal, but when the earth movers were smoothing out the ground, there turned out to be more coal than expected, roughly 18 acres of coal fairly close to the surface.

First go at the ground:

"We've know that there was coal present since 2004; they knew that when they bought the property. And then in 2009, they did a big, site grading project, and they exposed it during this grading project and they started to realize the kind of quantity that was there and they kind of just covered it back up and shut the project down and decided what to do next."

Coal seams are not uncommon in Campbell County, but Campbell County Cemetery District Sexton Darin Edmonds says coal is not good ground for a for a grave site.

Graves need stable earth:

"The first consideration is stability of the material. Just the process of excavating a grave, the thing you worry about the most is the sides just collapsing in on you. If you've got the sides just collapsing in at the bottom of your grave, it's just going to bring the top down and you're going to have a mess."

Mr. Edmonds said they then did a sampling project to see if they could do stacked burials, which require going 10 feet down instead of six.

Core samples reveal more coal:

"Acre by acre, in an organized grid, we drilled holes to find exactly where the boundaries of that coal were, but then when we differentiated it into the two different depths, the 10-foot depth and the six-foot depth, six feet we were right on the money; we knew there were 90,000 yards there, but we decided to go down 10 feet, so the volume increased because we were going that much deeper."

And compared to the high-grade coal found in abundance in Campbell County, this close-to-the-surface coal doesn't have much commercial value, but, Edmonds pointed out, they have time to figure out what to do about that coal because it'll be at least 20 years before the new cemetery is needed.