Usibelli Coal Mine is negotiating with its former single largest customer, a South Korean power plant, in hopes of renewing shipments of Healy coal to Asia.
“We’re reasonably optimistic that we will get a renewal on the contract, but we don’t have one in hand yet,” Steve Denton, vice president of business development at Usibelli, told Petroleum News Alaska March 17.
Coal exports from Alaska to Korea tapered off last year and concluded in October, after 17 years of shipping more than 12 million metric tons of Healy coal to Asia. As a result, 30 to 35 people — almost one-third of Usibelli’s work force — lost their jobs last year at Alaska’s only operating coal mine.
Contract talks have resumed, thanks to $9.6 million in federal funding that’s been allocated to the coal loading port facility in Seward. Current owners of that coal handling facility, Hyundai Merchant Marine and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, are in negotiations with the Alaska Railroad to iron out a new ownership structure, using the federal money to ultimately reduce transportation costs for Usibelli coal.