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Major mine expansions in West test moratorium on coal sales

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BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An Obama administration effort to overhaul coal sales from public lands will be put to its first test this week as companies seek to advance two major mining projects in the Western U.S.

Cloud Peak Energy and Lighthouse Resources Inc. want to mine a combined 644 million tons of coal from government-controlled reserves in Montana and Wyoming.

Federal and state officials are meeting Wednesday to consider the request.

It comes more than a week after U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell ordered a moratorium on government coal sales to address climate change and ensure taxpayers aren’t getting shortchanged.

Pending applications still can be reviewed, but no final decisions will be made.

An Associated Press review shows the moratorium could affect 28 mining projects in nine states involving more than 1.3 billion tons of coal.

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