Only one of the four major coal companies working in the Powder River Basin in northeast Wyoming posted a profit in the first quarter of this year.
Industry experts say plummeting natural gas prices are prompting utilities to accelerate their movement away from coal.
Industry analyst Hans Daniels tells the Casper Star-Tribune that power plant conversions to natural gas cost coal companies 11.7 million tons in lost demand during February. Of that, 5.5 million lost tons came from the Powder River Basin.
The challenging environment prompted Peabody Energy to recently declare it was evaluating the financial structure of its U.S. mines. The St. Louis-based firm operates the North Antelope Rochelle Mine south of Gillette.