Investors drop out of Coos Bay, Ore., coal port project



Updated: March 11, 2013, 5:02 PM


Coos Bay, Ore., proposal

Here's the background on the Coos Bay proposal, from EarthFix's Coal Scorecard: Your Guide To Coal In The Northwest.

Project Mainstay: Port of Coos Bay, Ore.

The port is in negotiations with Metro Ports, a stevedoring and terminal management company based in California, and Mitsui, a large international trading company involved with commodities.

Players: Metro Ports (Mitsui and Korean Electric Power Corp. dropped out).

Full Capacity: to be reached by 2023

Export Plans: 11 million short tons/year

Trains: 4 trains (2 full and 2 empty)

Train Cars: 600/day

Vessels: 200/year

What's Next: Metro is seeking new business partners after Mitsui and the Korean Electric Power Corp. dropped out of negotiations with the Port of Coos Bay. The partners would need to acquire land on the North Spit from the Port and negotiate deal over access to the rail line, or decide to walk away from the project. The Port is seeking dredging permits from government regulators.

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Now that two of its partners have dropped out, a California marine terminal management company has until the end of the month to decide if it still wants to try to develop at the Port of Coos Bay, Ore., so coal mined in Montana and Wyoming can be shipped from there to Asia.

A document posted on the International Port of Coos Bay website Monday said Mitsui & Co., the U.S. subsidiary of a Japanese trading company, and Korean Electric Power Corp., the potential buyer of the coal, are no longer part of the project. Mitsui is corporate parent to United Grain Corp., the Port of Vancouver grain export terminal that currently has locked out longshore union workers in a labor dispute.

Metropolitan Stevedore Company of Wilmington, Calif., known as Metro Ports, on March 5 signed a renewal of its exclusive negotiating agreement with the port, which is good through March 31. The company did not return a call for comment.

Coos Bay is one of five Northwest ports interested in exporting coal mined in Montana and Wyoming to markets in Asia.

Environmentalists have mounted a campaign to stop the shipments, arguing that burning coal in Asia is bad for global warming and acidification of the oceans, and that the huge trains hauling coal are bad for the health of communities on the route.

“They are going to have a lot of difficulty moving forward, because of the infrastructure upgrades necessary both to the rail lines and the bridges and overpasses they are asking the partner investors to foot the bill on,” Sierra Club spokeswoman Krista Collard said.

Port of Coos Bay spokeswoman Elise Hamner said the project is still conceptual, and at the end of the month Metro Ports could decide to drop consideration of Coos Bay, move forward, or ask for more time.

A 2012 feasibility study for the project estimates that coal exports through Coos Bay could go from 3 million metric tons annually in the first year to 10 million metric tons in the fifth. Construction of a bulk marine terminal is estimated at $250 million.

Other ports pursuing coal exports are Cherry Point and Longview in Washington, and St. Helens and Morrow in Oregon.