Is PRB coal headed for gradual decline or sheer cliff?

In January, 2020, I published Is PRB coal headed for gradual decline or sheer cliff? at WyoFile, drawing attention to a growing but often overlooked aspect of a shrinking mining industry.

There’s a huge amount of attention to mining data and market analysis as people try to understand where the coal mining industry is heading. Late in 2019, I noticed that leaders in Wyoming tend to focus on data trend lines — how many years until declining demand might force the closure of one or more mines in the basin, for example. What the data and trends don’t show, however, are the new vulnerabilities for each mine in the basin as the larger industry continues to serve a shrinking market.

“I agree that the Powder River Basin is not going to ride a gentle glidepath into oblivion decades from now,” Headwaters Economics Research Director Mark Haggerty said. “More likely, markets or policy will cross thresholds where things begin to happen very quickly. We may be in that now, or it could still be off in the future. But likely not far.”

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