From coal to Asia to technology to growing markets for uranium and soda ash, change is afoot for the mining industry, said leaders and members of the Wyoming Mining Association on Thursday.

"We're seeing significant changes in the industry," said Marion Loomis, WMA executive director, in a media conference held in Casper to announce the association's updated logo and discuss industry trends.

Loomis and the others highlighted the growing "culture of safety" in the industry, a rise in the importance of sustainability, and Wyoming's international impact.

While Loomis pointed out the growing export of Wyoming soda ash to points abroad, he could also have mentioned plans to ship Powder River Basin coal to China and other Asian countries via a new transfer port under consideration on the West Coast.

"What happens in Wyoming is going to be important to Brazil and India and Korea more so than it has been in the past," he said.

Donna Wichers, Uranium One senior vice president for ISR operations, said her company is pushing for uranium mines in Wyoming with an eye toward growing markets both in the United States and abroad as countries plan for new nuclear power reactors.

"We've got China -- they're looking at opening 500 nuclear power plants in the next 40 years; India -- several hundred," she said. "So you can see worldwide there is a huge demand for nuclear power."

Mines play a role in sustainability, as well, the speakers said. That role includes development of "clean coal" technology as well as the provision of metals and minerals used in the construction and power of green technology.

"Just remember, it takes a mine in order to be green," Loomis said.

Another trend in the industry is the rise in the use of technology, from satellite guidance to high-tech vehicle controls, including screens in trucks used in the mining process.

"Put it in the hands of the 25-year-old, and they've got a video game," said WMA President Steve Rennell. Rennell is also president of Alpha Coal West.

Others who spoke at the media conference represented Peabody Energy, Black Hills Bentonite and Cameco Resources.

Contact Jeremy Fugleberg at 307-266-0623 or jeremy.fugleberg@trib.com

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