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Indigenous Miner Becomes Third-Largest Coal Producer in the U.S.



October 7, 2019 - The Navajo Transitional Energy Company or NTEC, which identifies itself as “an American Indian and minority-owned business,” just became the third-largest coal producer in the United States after purchasing all of Cloud Peak Energy’s assets.

The transaction was approved the first week of October by the US District Court of Delaware. The deal entails the transferring of Cloud Peak’s Spring Creek mine in Montana and Antelope and Cordero Rojo mines in Wyoming to NTEC.


Navajo Transitional Energy Company’s locomotive

Photo courtesy of NTEC

In a media statement, Navajo Transitional said that it will retain the 1,200 employees that work at the mines.

According to the company, the idea is to do a “seamless transition,” something management has been working on since 2018 when it was selected as the most qualified bidder after Cloud Peak began searching for a buyer following the launching of its bankruptcy proceedings.

“Cloud Peak Energy had suffered in recent years due to very high levels of debt created by borrowing to finance certain acquisitions. Despite solid performance at the mines themselves, the company was unable to sustain the finance costs associated with this debt. NTEC will focus on diligent mining and marketing fundamentals to achieve profitability, just as they have done at their Navajo Mine in New Mexico,” the press brief states.

The Navajo Nation company also said that it plans to assume operations in mid-October.

In 2018, Cloud Peak Energy was considered the third-largest coal producer in the US after generating 49.5 million short tonnes of coal or 6.6% of the country’s total output.

Its Cordero Rojo mine, located approximately 25 miles south of Gillette, Wyoming, produced 12.6 million tonnes of low sulfur, 8,476 Btu coal last year. The operation extracts thermal coal that ranges from approximately 55 to 70 feet in thickness from the Wyodak Seam. The mineral is destined for electric utilities in the west, midwest and southeast US.

Nearby, some 60 miles south of Gillette, is the Antelope mine which works with thermal coal from the Anderson and Canyon Seams, with up to 44 and 36 feet, respectively, in thickness. In 2018, 23.1 million tonnes of low sulfur, 8,897 Btu coal were shipped from Antelope.

The last asset involved in the transaction with the Navajo is the Spring Creek mine, located in Montana approximately 35 miles north of Sheridan. The mine extracts thermal coal from the Anderson-Dietz Seam, which averages approximately 80 feet in thickness. Its 2018 output totalled 13.7 million tonnes of low sulfur, 9,283 Btu coal, which not only reached the US but also some Canadian provinces.

The Navajo Nation also owns the Navajo mine, located within its traditional territory in New Mexico. The mine produced some 4.1 million tonnes of the black mineral in 2018, which was destined for the Four Corners Generating Station, one of the largest power plants in the state.