DECKER, Mont. - At Spring Creek Mine, a broad black seam of coal, reaching depths of 80 feet, runs like a subterranean river through arid, sagebrush-covered hills.
This is a world-class seam formed from the remnants of ferns, grasses and other plants that flourished here more than 50 million years ago, when this part of Montana was a humid marsh.
Cloud Peak Energy, operators of this mine, and other companies have proposals that could eventually double the state’s coal production — part of the push for a big expansion of U.S. coal exports.
“There has been more activity in Montana in the last three years than there has been in a generation,” said Todd O’Hair, a senior manager at Cloud Peak.