BILLINGS — A company with coal mines in Wyoming and Montana said Thursday that it’s begun exporting fuel to Asia through a Canadian port — a rare bit of a positive news for an industry that’s been in a prolonged tailspin.
Details on Thursday’s planned announcement were obtained in advance by The Associated Press.
Utah-based Lighthouse Resources had been seeking approval since 2011 for two coal export terminals in Oregon and Washington. It’s faced strong opposition from environmentalists, American Indian tribes and some state officials.
With the company’s coal now going through British Columbia’s Westshore terminals, Lighthouse Chief Executive Officer Everett King said it was pulling out of the proposed Port of Morrow export terminal in Oregon after that project stalled.
The Washington state project, known as Millenium Bulk Terminals and located near the town of Longview, continues to move forward. It received a favorable review in a preliminary assessment last month by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Overseas exports of U.S. coal have been touted as a lifeline for an industry wracked by bankruptcies and declining domestic demand for the fuel.
Yet shipments to foreign nations peaked in 2012 and have since fallen by about half, as China and other countries have reduced their imports of the fuel, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Lighthouse Resources operates the Decker Mine in Montana and the Black Butte Mine in Wyoming, which is co-owned by Anadarko Petroleum. Combined, the mines employ more than 300 people and extracted roughly 6 million tons of fuel last year, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
Port of Morrow General Manager Gary Neal the shift by Lighthouse to Canada was disappointing and will mean the loss of $200 million in potential capital investment in the port and 25 future jobs. The port will try to make up the difference by increasing shipments of grains, potash and other commodities, Neal said.
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