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National mining advocate has bright outlook for industry in 2013

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The mining industry said it is looking forward to boosts in its own business from an overall improvement in the economy.

National Mining Association President and CEO Hal Quinn called for a positive outlook in the U.S. coal and minerals mining sectors at a press briefing in Washington D.C. this week. Developing economies, Quinn said, were particularly promising as America is still experiencing a s slow recovery.

"Coal is on track to become the world's primary energy source — surpassing oil— by 2015, according to Wood McKenzie, two years ahead of the International Energy Agency's current estimate," Quinn said. "Here at home, coal's contribution to meeting electricity demand will increase by nearly 45 million tons over 2012 levels, and total domestic consumption will rise by 50 million tons due to slight improvements in the U.S. economy; cooler weather; and natural gas prices that are expected to increase by 22 percent, according to the Energy Information Administration."

Quinn was particularly optimistic about demand for coal in Europe, especially Germany and Britain. He said that coal demand in Asia, both metallurgical and thermal markets, will contribute a "robust" 111 millions tons of coal export demand from the U.S.

The NMA, Quinn added, is predicting U.S. coal production of 1.016 billion tons, slightly more than EIA's January short-term forecast.

"Longer-term, NMA expects U.S. coal to benefit from recent and planned construction of higher efficiency coal-based power plants with higher output rates and lower emissions," Quinn said. "The remaining coal fleet will, on average, be larger, more efficient and run at higher capacity—recovering at least 100 million tons of U.S. coal production lost to retirements of older plants."

The NMA president also touted improvements in mine safety but acknowledged it was behind current safety goals. Some of those safety shortcomings, Quinn said, were due to regulations on the industry. Specific regulations were not specified.

"Regulations that needlessly limit our energy options by halting the construction in the U.S. of new advanced coal plants that can serve as the platforms for cleaner coal technologies worldwide are a failure of ambition and policy. If the U.S. wants to compete with the world's fastest growing economies and remain in the forefront of technological innovations, we must address these critical shortcomings," Quinn said.