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The US considers ending new coal mining leases in the Powder River Basin

The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed to end future coal leasing on federal lands in two areas of the Powder River Basin, namely in the Miles City planning area of Montana and in the Buffalo field area in Wyoming.

The Powder River Basin, which includes 16 mines, is the most productive coal producing region in the United States, but its coal production has been declining since 2008, in a context of power generation shift from coal to gas and renewables. The 12 active surface coal mines within the Buffalo Field Office (Wyoming), where federal coal production is anticipated to continue through 2041 under existing leases, produced approximately 220 Mt of coal in 2022, down from roughly 400 Mt in 2008. In Montana, the two operating mines in the Miles City planning area produced a combined total of 18.5 Mt of coal, down from over 28 Mt in 2007; federal coal production is expected to continue through 2035 at Spring Creek Mine and 2060 at Rosebud Mine under existing leases. 

The BLM proposal follows a 2022 court order from the United States District Court for the District of Montana stating that two federal land management plans drafted for the Powder River Basin failed to take into account coal burning-related public health and climate problems.

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