FRANKFORT, Ky., Aug. 17 (UPI) -- New Jersey company FJS Energy LLC signed a $7 million deal with India's Abhijeet Group to purchase coal from Kentucky and West Virginia, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear announced.
Under the deal, Kentucky coal companies will export about 9 million tons of coal annually for 25 years to India's Abhijeet Group.
"It's no secret that the coal industry is in a state of flux in America, what with erratic market conditions, the uncertain regulatory atmosphere and the ever-changing energy picture," Beshear said in a statement.
"But international markets need coal and this private partnership is a great example of a new market for Kentucky resources," he said. "My administration has worked hard to strengthen ties with India and we're looking forward to a long and successful partnership with many more economic opportunities."
The deal comes on the heels of a massive power failure across India July 30-31 when some 600 million people lost electricity, which was attributed to the collapse of three regional grids.
About 70 percent of India's electricity comes from coal-fired power plants.
While India does produce coal, domestic production cannot keep up with demand amid a growing economy and mining proposals face hurdles for approvals.
Power plants typically operate at 70-80 percent of their top capacity.
"The import of coal will help us meet India's increasing demand for energy and steel," Abhijeet Group Executive Director Anand Kumar said in a statement. "This partnership is an example of the strong potential between American producers and Indian customers. We see a significant growth of our mutually rewarding relationship."
Kentucky state Rep. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, who sits on the board of FJS Energy and has several coal-related businesses, was instrumental in brokering the deal, WKU Radio reports.
Hall defended his role in the deal, telling the Western Kentucky University radio station that his involvement was both as a state lawmaker and a businessman.
"I'm very proud to say I wear both hats. This didn't put one dime in Keith Hall's pocket but maybe in the future, they'll maybe take more of my coal, mine more of my coal and put my people back to work," Hall said.
FJS Energy's Chairman, M P Narayanan, is a former chairman of Indian companies Coal India Ltd. and Neyveli Lignite Co. and serves as vice chairman for the World Mining Congress.
FJS Energy's Web site says that the company "continues to secure substantial coal assets in several countries."
"Such strategic moves allow the organization to provide fuel security to India which is expected to have a deficit of over 200 million tons of coal a year by 2015," it states.