Wyoming’s Powder River Basin has produced the lion’s share of America’s thermal coal over recent decades. At its peak, coal directly employed nearly 7,000 workers and another 16,000 related jobs. Clearly, since the late 1970s Wyoming’s coal economy has been a boon to her citizens.
But markets changed, management miscalculated and the corporations that grew the Powder River Basin economy began to fail. In 2015-2016, the three largest mining companies in Wyoming — Alpha, Peabody and Arch — filed Chapter 11 bankruptcies.
In late 2018, another large company, Westmoreland, filed. And at this writing, the last of the big miners, Cloud Peak, is on the verge of throwing in the towel. They have granted their executives the usual “retention” bonuses, eliminated retiree health care and pensions, hired a financial adviser and been delisted from the New York Stock Exchange.
These recent events in Wyoming eerily reflect Appalachia’s sobering history where the region’s landscapes and communities were devastated by mining.
Now, bad actors from Appalachia are acquiring our critical coal mining assets, one by one. Our miners, communities and lands are in danger of being impoverished by these vulture operators and their schemes.