CASPER, Wyo. — Two Powder River Basin coal mines in Wyoming operated by Arch Resources Inc. will see their operations reduced.

Arch Resources said on Tuesday that they plan to proceed with “the accelerated closure and final reclamation of the Coal Creek mine.” The company plans to ship coal from the mine under their existing contracts during 2021 “before beginning final closure of the mine’s active pit in 2022.”

“Through these accelerated efforts, Arch expects to reduce the total asset retirement obligation (ARO) at Coal Creek by an estimated $40 million, or 80 percent of the ARO at the mine, over the course of the next 18 months,” Arch Resources said. 

The company added that they plan to simultaneously lay “groundwork for systematically reducing the operational footprint at its Black Thunder mine.”

The Black Thunder mine was the second largest coal mine in terms of production in 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The mine produced about 72 million short tons of coal, behind only the North Antelope Rochelle mine which produced about 85 million short tons.

Arch Resources said Tuesday that the company experienced a net loss of $78.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2020.

“The net loss included a $45.0 million charge primarily related to the planned, accelerated closure of the Coal Creek mine in the Powder River Basin,” the company said.

The company said they have been pivoting toward a focus on metallurgical or coking coal production as they shift away from thermal coal (coal used for energy production).

“We are driving ahead with our strategic pivot with a strong sense of urgency,” Arch President and CEO Paul Lang said in the company’s release.  “Our objective is to continue to harvest value and cash from our legacy thermal assets, even as we execute on reducing our long-term closure obligations in a measured, systematic and sustained way.”

“We are tremendously proud of the accomplishments of our talented, dedicated and resilient thermal operating teams, who have shown their mettle again and again in a difficult and declining demand environment.  We value and appreciate their staunch commitment to operating at the highest level while adjusting effectively and nimbly to the realities of the current market environment.”

The company’s full statement is available online.