Montana coal production declines

The pace at which Montana coal production is declining continues to slow as the economy recovers from the slump induced by the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coal production for 12 months ending in March totaled 28.1 million tons, down about 871,000 tons for the same period a year earlier. The tonnage is reported to the Mine Safety and Health.

Coal has been on a steady decline for a decade with a couple seismic plunges along the way. One of the steepest declines was in the first four quarters of the COVID-19 pandemic. Montana coal mines shed 8.1 million tons of production as industrial demand in the Midwest crashed in 2020 and early 2021.

At Colstrip Power Plant, a concern about illness in the spring of 2020 sparked a months-long delay in a scheduled overhaul. As a result, there was a steep drop in net electricity generated. Decker Mine closed at the end of 2020. A new owner never materialized for Decker.

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