UM economists say the impact from the proposed mine could mean a $1 billion shot in the arm for the state’s economy. The study says during the permitting and construction phase of the Otter Creek mine, new rail development and related infrastructure—more than 2,600 construction jobs would be created at its peak. Most of those jobs would be in eastern Montana and impacts on new personal income for Montana households during peak construction could generate as much as $103.5 million.

During its operation phase, UM economists say Otter Creek would generate 1,740 new permanent year-round jobs, resulting in an increase in household income by $125.4 million. The new mine would also add 2,850 people to the state’s population, as well as 560 school-aged students, while state and local tax revenue would increase by almost $92 million per year.

Key to the study is China’s increasing demand for coal. Economist Patrick Barkey, who co-authored the study, says Montana has a geographic advantage over Wyoming coal in serving the fast-growing Asian markets. “Because Montana coalfields are closer to northwest ports than those in Wyoming, Montana has a geographic advantage in serving fast-growing Asian markets,” Barkey said.

The Bureau of Business and Economic Research at UM is a research center producing economic and industry data for Montana.