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India to get 9M tons of Appalachian coal annually

Roger Alford

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- A private-sector agreement could help India avert future power outages by importing 9 million tons of coal a year from Kentucky and West Virginia.

Gov. Steve Beshear announced the 25-year, $7 billion agreement between India's Abhijeet Group and Kentucky-based Booth Energy Group and River Trading Co., calling it good news for U.S. coal miners who have lost their jobs because of a decline in domestic coal sales.

"It's no secret that the coal industry is in a state of flux, what with erratic market conditions, the uncertain regulatory atmosphere and the ever-changing energy picture," Beshear said. "This creates challenges in Kentucky where mining has been a huge source of jobs and a pillar of our state economy."

The agreement also is a boon for India where power outages last week affected over 600 million people. India is a major coal producer, but it can't keep up with demand from steel mills and power plants without imports.

Most of those imports now come from Australia, Indonesia and South Africa.

Kentucky coal producers have been searching for foreign customers as the U.S. slowly moves away from coal-fired generating plants.

"With 1.6 billion people on this planet not having access to electricity, there is a tremendous international market for our coal worldwide," said Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett. "While we currently only export about 5 percent of our Kentucky coal overseas, we expect that number to grow."

Abhijeet Group executive director Anand Kumar touted the agreement as a means of providing India with a reliable, high quality fuel source.

"The import of coal will help us meet India's increasing demand for energy and steel," he said. "This partnership is an example of the strong potential between American producers and Indian customers."

Kumar said he sees potential for "significant growth" in Appalachian coal exports to India.

Booth Energy President Jim Booth said his company has the capacity to supply about 2 million tons of coal annually to India. Others coal producers in Kentucky and West Virginia will be called on the pick up the remaining 7 million tons called for in the agreement.