The answer hinges on the outcome of the major legal dispute between the mine’s 50% co-owners, subsidiaries of Ambre Energy of Australia and Wyoming-based Cloud Peak Energy (CPE). Decker’s contract with its major customer, Detroit Edison, expires next year and CPE contends that the long term plans have been to phase out operations at the mine.

Ambre, which is actively trying to develop one of several planned West Coast coal terminals, has said it wants to keep mining at Decker to ship the coal to Asia. CPE already ships significant volumes of coal to Asia through the existing Westshore Terminal in Vancouver and, in fact, is the largest U.S. exporter of Powder River Basin coal.