BILLINGS, Mont. — The Crow Tribe is expected to sign an agreement Thursday giving a Wyoming mining company rights to lease an estimated 1.4 billion tons of coal beneath the tribe’s southeastern Montana reservation.
The deal with Cloud Peak Energy involves more coal than the U.S. consumes annually.
It would revive stalled efforts to expand mining on the impoverished, 2.2 million-acre reservation and appears aimed at tapping into coal export markets.
The reserves are within the Powder River Basin, which accounts for about 40 percent of U.S. coal production.
Cloud Peak and other companies have been seeking to boost exports of the region’s coal through West Coast ports. They face determined resistance from environmentalists.
An earlier attempt to build a $7 billion dollar coal-to-liquids plant on the Crow reservation failed to attract financing.