Amid investigation, coal exports at record levels

Posted: Apr 17, 2013

Written by

Matthew Brown, Associated Press
Coal mining

From the time coal is scooped from the depths of the Spring Creek strip mine in Montana’s wide-open Powder River Basin until it travels more than 6,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean to power plants in South Korea, the price can increase more than fivefold.

Mining companies, however, are only paying government royalties on the price of the coal when it is mined from federal lands, not when it is sold for more overseas, saving them millions of dollars in the process.

As the Interior Department investigates the industry’s export practices and considers a new royalty system, several exporters in the Montana-Wyoming coal region — the nation’s most productive — are planning to increase shipments abroad to energy-hungry Asia.

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