Owner of Montana, Wyoming mines says it’s negotiating with new bond backer

The owner of three struggling Powder River basin coal mines says it’s negotiating with a new broker to back the bonds required to keep the mines operating after the Navajo Nation said it’s pulling its financial support.

Erny Zah, a spokesman for the Navajo Transitional Energy Company (NTEC), said Wednesday the firm doesn’t foresee a closure of the Spring Creek coal mine, Montana’s largest, and the Cordero Rojo and Antelope mines of Wyoming.

The future of these newly acquired mines came under a new cloud of uncertainty Tuesday when the leaders of the Navajo Nation, which wholly owns NTEC, announced they were ending agreements to back the reclamation bonds for those mines. Regulators require reclamation bonds upfront to cover the costs of clean up should a mine close.