It happens once, maybe twice a year, and it usually happens about this time.

A U.S. company has managed to sell a cargo of steam coal in the Japanese utility market - a market dominated by lower priced coal available from other international competitors.U.S. trading sources said a ship in the 50,000-ton class is scheduled to load the coal in early April from a terminal on the lower Mississippi River. The coal is bound for a member of Japan's Electric Power Development Corp.

The deal has been arranged through the Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co., traders said. The U.S. supplier is a major producer headquartered in St. Louis, but the company is obtaining the coal from a contract miner, sources noted.

Trading sources said they had not heard a price on the deal.

Pittston Faces

Possible Strike

Selective strikes at some mines operated by Pittston Coal Group Inc. are a possibility after this weekend, according to some Appalachian coal industry sources.

The United Mine Workers plan to hold a rally Sunday in Lebanon, Va., where Pittston Coal headquarters are located. Miners from Virginia are expected to be joined by union members from Kentucky and West Virginia.

A West Virginia coal industry source commented that it's unlikely union president Richard Trumka is calling in miners from all over Appalachia just to tell Pittston miners to go on working without a contract.

Pittston's employees have remained on the job since their wage and benefit agreement expired Feb. 1.

But a Virginia coal source speculated that the union wants to avoid being drawn into a confrontation with Pittston and won't call a strike.

US, Brazil Firms

Differ on Price

Two U.S. coking coal producers and Brazil's national steel company, Siderbras, failed this week to reach a price agreement on 1988 contract deliveries.

The first U.S. suppliers to enter into price talks with the Brazilians were U.S. Steel Mining Co. and Peabody Coal Co.

The U.S. producers are seeking price increases but Siderbras is holding firm to a roll over on last year's price, according to a Siderbras official.

Next week, A.T. Massey Coal Co., United Coal Co. and Island Creek Corp. are scheduled to visit Brazil for contract discussions.