BILLINGS — A Wyoming coal company plans to begin exploratory drilling this week on a 1.4 billion ton coal reserve on the Crow Indian Reservation.

Cloud Peak Energy spokesman Rick Curtsinger says the company expects to take about a year to confirm the quantity and quality of coal on the southeastern Montana reservation.

The drilling is planned in an area near the Wyoming border where Cloud Peak operates its existing Spring Creek mine.

Cloud Peak wants to develop a mine that would produce up to 10 million tons of coal annually, with much of that fuel destined for overseas markets.

The company says it has paid more than $5 million to the Crow Tribe under a lease agreement. Future payments during an initial five-year option period could total up to $10 million

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