Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Western coal mines lay off workers amid battles over plans to export from West Coast ports

The decline in domestic coal production is catching up to mines in the Powder River Basin, which have for years dwarfed production elsewhere in the U.S. At least 300 jobs have been cut at mines in Montana and Wyoming since early 2012, according to Mine Safety and Health Administration data. Out-of-work Western miners are now scrambling to find jobs even as "global coal markets enjoy a heyday," The Associated Press reports. Experts say coal will surpass oil as the world's top energy source within the next four years, with the U.S. being the sole exception in that trend.

Resistance to shipping coal through West Coast ports is stalling the industry's ability to export coal to Asian markets, forcing companies to make the layoffs, which economically imperil small Western coal towns. Ambre Energy of Australia owns the Decker mine in Wyoming, site of many of the layoffs. The company promised last year to increase production, but pushed back plans to build port infrastructure to sustain coal exports on the West Coast when the political battle over them started. Other companies, including Arch Coal and Peabody Energy, face similar problems, AP reports. (Read more)

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