Buyers from the Asia-Pacific region accounted for 62% of this year’s exports, with 1.9 million tonnes going to Japan and 2.3 million tonnes to South Korea in the first six months. Both countries are the primary destinations for coal in Montana and Wyoming. India was the region’s largest buyer with 7.9 million tonnes.
Export markets fueled a coal boom in Montana and Wyoming for the first six years of the past decade. Coal companies such as Cloud Peak Energy and Lighthouse Resources, once Montana’s big hitters of coal, have attempted to build their own coal ports, arguing that there was not enough marine availability in the Pacific Northwest. to answer the question. They also signed multi-million dollar checks for mining development rights to communities like the Crow tribe.
But these big projects have failed, in part because in the Asia-Pacific region, coal companies in the western United States are disadvantaged by distance. The world’s largest exporter of all types of coal, Australia, is much closer and benefits from lower shipping costs. The same is true of Indonesia, which is the largest exporter of steam coal. American coal exported well when prices were high, but when the market softened, American coal was often overseas.
Cloud Peak filed for bankruptcy in 2018, two years after having had to halt coal exports due to unprofitable export prices. The company’s largest mine, Spring Creek in southeastern Montana, was sold to the Navajo Transitional Energy Company, which did not aggressively pursue exports like Cloud Peak. Spring Creek is also Montana’s largest mine. Cloud Peak had planned to build a coal export terminal near Bellingham, Washington.