Gillette-based Cloud Peak Energy Inc. signed a deal to ship up to 16 million metric tons of coal a year through the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point in Bellingham, Wash., the two companies announced Wednesday.

The coal will be exported to Asia, Colin Marshall, Cloud Peak Energy’s president and CEO, said in a prepared statement.

Coal would come from the Spring Creek mine near Decker, Mont., the Youngs Creek property acquired by Cloud Peak last year and land made available through recently announced option and exploration agreements with the Crow Tribe in Montana, the statement said.

The planned Gateway Pacific Terminal would be capable of exporting 48 million metric tons of coal per year.

Cloud Peak Energy’s potential share of capacity will depend on the capacity of the terminal. After obtaining required permits, terminal owner SSA Marine anticipates approximately two years for construction. Commercial operation is currently expected to commence in 2018, the statement said.

Reach state reporter Laura Hancock at 307-266-0581 or at laura.hancock@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter: @laurahancock.

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