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Peabody bankruptcy draws attention to coal reclamation

Apr 14, 2016 By Mead Gruver, The Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- The bankruptcy of Peabody Energy helps draw attention to plans for financially troubled coal companies to cover the potentially huge costs of filling and restoring to a natural state mines that sooner or later might permanently close amid the industry's downturn.

St. Louis-based Peabody filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Wednesday. Peabody's mines include the top-producing coal mine in the U.S., the huge North Antelope Rochelle mine in Wyoming's Powder River Basin.

The mine produced 118 million tons in 2014, some 12 percent of production nationwide. So far, recent coal-mine closures have beset the industry in the east, not out west.

Bankruptcy reorganization doesn't change Peabody's commitment to ongoing reclamation as a routine part of surface mining or to ongoing talks with states and the federal government about long-term bonding obligations, spokeswoman Beth Sutton said.

"We see our land restoration as an essential part of the mining process, take great pride in the work that we do and have been routinely recognized for these programs," Sutton said by email.

Advocacy groups, however, warn the recent bankruptcy of several companies including St. Louis-based Arch Coal and Bristol, Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources could leave taxpayers responsible for billions in reclamation costs should a wave of coal-mine closures come to pass.

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