Employment in Wyoming's coal mining sector has fallen 6 percent in the past year. The latest data from June 2013 shows there were 425 less jobs than in June 2012.
Coal production has slumped nationwide, and taken jobs along with it, but Wyoming is faring better than other coal producing regions. Nationwide the sector has lost significantly more jobs as mines closed or reduced their capacity.
Wyoming Department of Workforce Services senior economist David Bullard, says so far, there haven't been many layoffs in the state.
Today’s coal lease sale of nearly 150 million tons of mineable coal in the Powder River Basin received zero bids.
It’s the first time the Wyoming office of the Bureau of Land Management has received no bids for a sale. Cordero Mining, a subsidiary of Cloud Peak Energy, asked BLM to open the tract in 2006. It's adjacent to an operating Cloud Peak mine.
But Cloud Peak CEO Colin Marshall says things have changed since then. In a press release, he cited current coal market conditions and regulatory uncertainty as factors in the company's decision not to bid.
The Interstate Mining Compact Commission is recognizing two Wyoming mines for their reclamation efforts. The IMCC represents environmental protection interests and awards one non-coal and one coal project each year. The M-I SWACO Bentonite Mine in Big Horn County won the non-coal award and the Bridger Coal Mine received honorable mention in the coal category.
Department of Environmental Quality spokesman, Keith Guille, says the IMCC only gives two awards each year and it’s significant that Wyoming was recognized for both.
A new US Geological Survey study says that only a small percentage of coal in the Powder River Basin is cost-effective to mine in the current market. According to the USGS, there are more than one trillion tons of coal present in the Basin, of which 162 billion tons could technically be recovered. Of that, it would only be economically viable to mine about 25 billion tons in today’s market.
Project Chief for the US Coal Assessment Program, Jim Luppens, says new geologic data made the study possible.
Coal production in the Powder River Basin continues to decline for the second quarter in a row. Second-quarter financial results show that ARCH coal is down 22% from the second quarter of 2011, and Union Pacific, which transports coal from the Basin to utilities nationwide, shipped 18% less coal this quarter than the same time last year.