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Cloud Peak

A shovel loads haulers with coal at Cloud Peak Energy's Antelope Mine north of Douglas. The company made up a sizable portion of Wyoming's decrease in coal production during the third quarter.

Wyoming coal production sank by more than 4 million tons over late summer in 2018 compared to the same period last year, with one mine responsible for about half of that decrease: Cloud Peak Energy’s Antelope mine, which was slowed by bad weather.

Production during the third quarter, the period between July and September, hit 81.5 million tons statewide compared to 85.8 million tons last year.

The Powder River Basin, where the state’s largest coal mines are located, lost 3.9 million tons compared to the third quarter of last year.

Though production across the basin was less than last year, most mines produced larger volumes of coal in the third quarter of 2018 than they had earlier this year. Production was up from the second quarter by about 20 percent.

Production at Blackjewel LLC’s mines ticked up, despite sustained market pressure on lower heat mines. The company was formed in Wyoming by CEO Jeff Hoops of Appalachia to acquire the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines from Contura Energy. Eagle Butte’s production rose from 4.5 million tons in the third quarter of 2017 to 4.7 million tons this year. Belle Ayr’s output increased from 4.5 million tons to 5.3 million tons.

Peabody Energy’s North Antelope Rochelle, one of the largest open-surface mines in the country, lost about 1.7 million tons. Arch Coal’s Black Thunder increased production by 101,000 tons but reduced production by about that much at its Coal Creek mine.

The biggest single-mine dip in production was from Cloud Peak Energy’s Antelope mine, which straddles the border of Campbell and Converse counties. Antelope’s production fell by 2 million tons compared to last year.

Kiewit’s Buckskin mine produced nearly 1 million tons less this third quarter than the same period last year.

In a recent call with investors, Cloud Peak’s CEO noted that the mine had been hit by summer rains interrupting a drag line’s progress.

Cloud Peak has held on in the basin throughout the downturn in the coal market, but the firm announced Tuesday that it was considering a number of strategies ahead, including the possibility of selling the company. Its executive team was also guaranteed a retention bonus equal to one year’s compensation, paid in a period of installments over the next two years.

Mines with direct customers in Wyoming also experienced production drops compared to last year. The Kemmerer mine, which provides coal for Rocky Mountain Power’s Naughton plant, and the Jim Bridger mines that produce for Pacificorp’s Jim Bridger power plant both produced less in the third quarter of 2018 than they had the previous year.

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Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner

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Energy Reporter

Heather Richards writes about energy and the environment. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, she moved to Wyoming in 2015 to cover natural resources and government in Buffalo. Heather joined the Star Tribune later that year.

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