The 75,000-ton coal shipment will be Usibelli’s last coal export, at least until the market improves, Simon said.
A strong U.S. dollar, cheap natural gas and cheap coal from Indonesia and Australia created an unfavorable international coal market and Simon said the poor market conditions prompted the Alaska coal company to halt exporting for the time being.
Usibelli has been exporting coal from the Seward coal loading facility since the 1980s. In 2011, Usibelli produced 2.2 million tons of coal, exporting 1.2 million of it to Chile, South Korea and Japan.
All employees in Seward were laid off and the reduction in production led to mine laborers being laid off as well. Usibelli employees in Fairbanks have avoided layoffs since they are administrative employees, Simon said.
Usibelli officials will continue to monitor international coal markets for the next opportunity to make profitable coal exports.
“We are hopeful that the global market will see a positive shift in coal prices over the next few years,” Simon said.