Coal mines in Kentucky and West Virginia will send millions of tons of coal to India, under the terms of a 25-year contract that was signed today.

The $7 billion deal between FJS Energy, a New Jersey-based energy company, and a coal group in India will send 6 to 9 million tons of coal annually for use in Indian power plants and steel production. There are coal mines in India, too, but production is unable to meet growing demands.

State government wasn’t involved in the negotiations, but Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says the deal is good news for an industry that’s in a state of flux.

“International exports present a promising opportunity for Kentucky coal producers and consequently for our communities whose economic vitality depends on coal,” he said. “This is a good first step, with the possibility for a lot of growth.”

Eastern Kentucky coal mines produced 68 million tons of coal last year, and most of it was used domestically. But a variety of market and regulatory factors have reduced the demand for coal in the United States, and many coal mines have laid off workers or slowed production.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.