Wyoming coal counties best positioned to weather declining industry – by Henry Lazenby (MiningWeekly.com – October 4, 2016)


VANCOUVER (miningweekly.com) – In dealing with the decline of US coal mining, western coal-producing states, such as Wyoming, are much better positioned to weather the market shift than their eastern counterparts, such as West Virginia and Kentucky, according to new analysis by Moody’s Investors Service.

Driven by weaker seaborne demand, lower natural gas prices and tighter emissions regulations, coal production is experiencing record declines in the three largest coal producing states.

As the downturn increasingly trickles down to local governments, Wyoming counties are benefiting from greater production levels, more favourable income and poverty indicators, as well as a lower reliance on state severance tax distributions, Moody’s states.

According to the market intelligence firm, despite lower coal output in all three states, Wyoming’s output has declined at a slower rate than West Virginia and Kentucky. From 2011 to 2015, Wyoming’s production declined by 14% to 376-million short tons from 438.7-million short tons, compared with Kentucky’s 42% decline to 61.4-million short tons and West Virginia’s 20% decline to 114.8-million tons.

Wyoming’s Powder River basin (PRB) has distinctive characteristics that set it apart from the eastern states, as it relies almost entirely on surface mining, which is less expensive. Further, coal productivity (the amount produced per hour) is about ten times higher in Wyoming than in the other two states.

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