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Cloud Peak Energy, one of the biggest miners of Montana coal, will consider selling the company among other options as it deals with continuing economic challenges.

The coal company, which operates Spring Creek Mine in southeast Montana and has development rights to Crow Indian coal reserves, announced Tuesday that it is reviewing strategic alternatives.

The company's board of directors has not made any decisions, and there's no assurance any transaction will take place, the Wyoming-based company said in a press release.

“While our board is undertaking this strategic review, Cloud Peak Energy remains focused on executing against our operational and financial priorities," said Colin Marshall, president and CEO of Cloud Peak. "We will continue to adjust our business to the structural changes in the U.S. coal industry and to position our company for future growth opportunities.”

The company declined to discuss the situation further when contacted Tuesday by Lee Montana Newspapers.

Cloud Peak stock slid from $5.50 a share in January to $1.32 on Tuesday. In late October, the company announced it was canceling medical benefits promised to its retired miners. Its retirees were to lose coverage at year's end, then receive a lump sum payment.

Canceling the benefits resulted in a one-time non-cash gain of $19.5 million for the company, which pulled its third quarter into profitability by $12.7 million, according to quarterly reports.

Cloud Peak had a net income loss of $24.5 million for the first three quarters of the year. Its coal sales were down 7 million tons compared to the first three quarters of the previous year.

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Cloud Peak mines were expected to produce up to 51 million tons of coal this year, but had contracts for 35 million tons in 2019 and 30 million the year after.

The company’s biggest producer, Antelope Mine in Wyoming, was sacked by wet weather earlier in the year, quarterly reports reveal. Consequently, the mine’s heavy equipment has been addressing water damage and mining little coal.

Cloud Peak has had to renegotiate with customers of its Antelope coal. Shipments to some of those customers will be delayed, Marshal said in Cloud Peak’s third quarter announcement.

A positive for the company is Spring Creek Mine, which, because it’s farther north, faces lower rail costs to port in Vancouver, British Columbia. Earlier in the year, Cloud Peak increased the tons it plans to ship through Vancouver’s Westshore Terminal from 5.5 million tons to 10.5 million in 2021 and 2022.

Cloud Peak also quietly paid the Crow Tribe $1.8 million in June to begin developing part of its Big Metal Mine project, while extending its lease option on two other project areas. The Crow Tribe has now received $12 million from Cloud Peak since 2013 for the development of Big Metal mine.

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