The losses are continuing to mount as more coal companies report their second quarter earnings.
Cloud Peak Energy announced a $53 million loss for the quarter Wednesday, while Arch Coal reported a $168 million dollar loss Thursday, following on the heels of Peabody Energy's $1 billion loss on Monday.
All of the companies' production was affected by unusually heavy rainfall in the second quarter, along with low natural gas prices that further weakened demand. Natural gas and renewables have been increasingly replacing coal-fired power around the country, with natural gas even surpassing coal as the country's main source of electricity in April.
“We will have to accept that the [coal-fired power] plants that close will not be coming back, which is why we are continuing to adjust our coal output to match reduced domestic demand,” Cloud Peak CEO Colin Marshall said in a conference call with investors.
Marshall added that the federal Clean Power Plan, which is expected to be released next week, will likely result in more plant closures. He said regardless of whether lawsuits against it succeed or not, utilities are moving away from coal in their long-term plans.
But Arch CEO John Eaves was more bullish, despite the company's weak financials. “Supply is coming off much quicker than we ever anticipated, particularly in the eastern United States,” he said in a conference call with investors, adding that he anticipates prices rebounding a result.
It remains an open question though whether prices will rebound soon enough for some companies. Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Alpha Natural Resources, another large miner in the Powder River Basin, could declare bankruptcy as early as Monday.