Coal mining

Coal mining is the process of extracting coal from the ground. Coal is valued for its energy content, and, since the 1880s, has been widely used to generate electricity. Steel and cement industries use coal as a fuel for extraction of iron from iron ore and for cement production. In the United Kingdom and South Africa, a coal mine and its structures are a colliery, a coal mine a pit, and the above-ground structures the pit head. In Australia, "colliery" generally refers to an underground coal mine. In the United States, "colliery" has been used to describe a coal mine operation but nowadays the word is not commonly used.

Coal mining has had many developments over the recent years, from the early days of men tunnelling, digging and manually extracting the coal on carts, to large open cut and long wall mines. Mining at this scale requires the use of draglines, trucks, conveyors, hydraulic jacks and shearers.

SLNSW 31753 Balmain Coal Mine for LJ Hooker Ltd
Balmain Coal Mine in New South Wales in 1950. Photograph taken by Sam Hood for LJ Hooker, State Library of New South Wales, 31753
FIRST SHIFT OF MINERS AT THE VIRGINIA-POCAHONTAS COAL COMPANY MINE ^4 NEAR RICHLANDS, VIRGINIA, LEAVING THE ELEVATOR.... - NARA - 556393 tweaked
Coal miners leaving an American mine at the end of a shift (April 1974)
Coal mine Wyoming
Surface coal mining in Wyoming in the United States.
Coal mine in Dhanbad, India
A coal mine in Bihar, India.
0 Frameries - Charbonnage de Crachet Picquery (1)
A coal mine in Frameries, Belgium.

History

Boats hauling coal
Ships have been used to haul coal since Roman times.

Small-scale mining of surface deposits dates back thousands of years. For example, in Roman Britain, the Romans were exploiting most of the major coalfields by the late 2nd century AD.[1]

The Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain in the 18th century and later spread to continental Europe and North America, was based on the availability of coal to power steam engines. International trade expanded rapidly when coal-fed steam engines were built for the railways and steamships.

Until the late nineteenth century coal was mined underground using a pick and shovel, and children were often employed underground in dangerous conditions.[2] Coal-cutting machines were introduced in the 1880s. By 1912, surface mining was conducted with steam shovels designed for coal mining.

Methods of extraction

The most economical method of coal extraction from coal seams depends on the depth and quality of the seams, and the geology and environmental factors. Coal mining processes are differentiated by whether they operate on the surface or underground. Many coals extracted from both surface and underground mines require washing in a coal preparation plant. Technical and economic feasibility are evaluated based on the following: regional geological conditions; overburden characteristics; coal seam continuity, thickness, structure, quality, and depth; strength of materials above and below the seam for roof and floor conditions; topography (especially altitude and slope); climate; land ownership as it affects the availability of land for mining and access; surface drainage patterns; ground water conditions; availability of labor and materials; coal purchaser requirements in terms of tonnage, quality, and destination; and capital investment requirements.[3]

Surface mining and deep underground mining are the two basic methods of mining. The choice of mining method depends primarily on depth, density, overburden and thickness of the coal seam; seams relatively close to the surface, at depths less than approximately 180 ft (55 m), are usually surface mined.

Coal that occurs at depths of 180 to 300 ft (55 to 90 m) are usually deep mined, but in some cases surface mining techniques can be used. For example, some western U.S. coal that occur at depths in excess of 200 ft (60 m) are mined by the open pit methods, due to thickness of the seam 60–90 feet (20–25 metres). Coals occurring below 300 ft (90 m) are usually deep mined.[4] However, there are open pit mining operations working on coal seams up to 1,000–1,500 feet (300–460 metres) below ground level, for instance Tagebau Hambach in Germany.

Surface mining

Cerrejonmine1
Trucks loaded with coal at the Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia

When coal seams are near the surface, it may be economical to extract the coal using open cut (also referred to as open cast, open pit, mountaintop removal or strip) mining methods. Open cast coal mining recovers a greater proportion of the coal deposit than underground methods, as more of the coal seams in the strata may be exploited. This equipment can include the following: Draglines which operate by removing the overburden, power shovels, large trucks in which transport overburden and coal, bucket wheel excavators, and conveyors. In this mining method, explosives are first used in order to break through the surface or overburden, of the mining area. The overburden is then removed by draglines or by shovel and truck. Once the coal seam is exposed, it is drilled, fractured and thoroughly mined in strips. The coal is then loaded onto large trucks or conveyors for transport to either the coal preparation plant or directly to where it will be used.[5]

Most open cast mines in the United States extract bituminous coal. In Canada (BC), Australia and South Africa, open cast mining is used for both thermal and metallurgical coals. In New South Wales open casting for steam coal and anthracite is practiced. Surface mining accounts for around 80 percent of production in Australia, while in the US it is used for about 67 percent of production. Globally, about 40 percent of coal production involves surface mining.[5]

Strip mining

Strip mining exposes coal by removing earth above each coal seam. This earth is referred to as overburden and is removed in long strips. The overburden from the first strip is deposited in an area outside the planned mining area and referred to as out-of-pit dumping. Overburden from subsequent strips are deposited in the void left from mining the coal and overburden from the previous strip. This is referred to as in-pit dumping.

It is often necessary to fragment the overburden by use of explosives. This is accomplished by drilling holes into the overburden, filling the holes with explosives, and detonating the explosive. The overburden is then removed, using large earth-moving equipment, such as draglines, shovel and trucks, excavator and trucks, or bucket-wheels and conveyors. This overburden is put into the previously mined (and now empty) strip. When all the overburden is removed, the underlying coal seam will be exposed (a 'block' of coal). This block of coal may be drilled and blasted (if hard) or otherwise loaded onto trucks or conveyors for transport to the coal preparation (or wash) plant. Once this strip is empty of coal, the process is repeated with a new strip being created next to it. This method is most suitable for areas with flat terrain.

Equipment to be used depends on geological conditions. For example, to remove overburden that is loose or unconsolidated, a bucket wheel excavator might be the most productive. The life of some area mines may be more than 50 years.[6]

Contour mining

The contour mining method consists of removing overburden from the seam in a pattern following the contours along a ridge or around the hillside. This method is most commonly used in areas with rolling to steep terrain. It was once common to deposit the spoil on the downslope side of the bench thus created, but this method of spoil disposal consumed much additional land and created severe landslide and erosion problems. To alleviate these problems, a variety of methods were devised to use freshly cut overburden to refill mined-out areas. These haul-back or lateral movement methods generally consist of an initial cut with the spoil deposited downslope or at some other site and spoil from the second cut refilling the first. A ridge of undisturbed natural material 15 to 20 ft (5 to 6 m) wide is often intentionally left at the outer edge of the mined area. This barrier adds stability to the reclaimed slope by preventing spoil from slumping or sliding downhill.

The limitations of contour strip mining are both economic and technical. When the operation reaches a predetermined stripping ratio (tons of overburden/tons of coal), it is not profitable to continue. Depending on the equipment available, it may not be technically feasible to exceed a certain height of highwall. At this point, it is possible to produce more coal with the augering method in which spiral drills bore tunnels into a highwall laterally from the bench to extract coal without removing the overburden.

Mountaintop removal mining

Mountaintop coal mining is a surface mining practice involving removal of mountaintops to expose coal seams, and disposing of associated mining overburden in adjacent "valley fills." Valley fills occur in steep terrain where there are limited disposal alternatives.

Mountaintop removal combines area and contour strip mining methods. In areas with rolling or steep terrain with a coal seam occurring near the top of a ridge or hill, the entire top is removed in a series of parallel cuts. Overburden is deposited in nearby valleys and hollows. This method usually leaves ridge and hill tops as flattened plateaus.[4] The process is highly controversial for the drastic changes in topography, the practice of creating head-of-hollow-fills, or filling in valleys with mining debris, and for covering streams and disrupting ecosystems.[7][8]

Spoil is placed at the head of a narrow, steep-sided valley or hollow. In preparation for filling this area, vegetation and soil are removed and a rock drain constructed down the middle of the area to be filled, where a natural drainage course previously existed. When the fill is completed, this underdrain will form a continuous water runoff system from the upper end of the valley to the lower end of the fill. Typical head-of-hollow fills are graded and terraced to create permanently stable slopes.[6]

Underground mining

Coal Washer
Coal wash plant in Clay County, Kentucky

Most coal seams are too deep underground for opencast mining and require underground mining, a method that currently accounts for about 60 percent of world coal production.[5] In deep mining, the room and pillar or bord and pillar method progresses along the seam, while pillars and timber are left standing to support the mine roof. Once room and pillar mines have been developed to a stopping point (limited by geology, ventilation, or economics), a supplementary version of room and pillar mining, termed second mining or retreat mining, is commonly started. Miners remove the coal in the pillars, thereby recovering as much coal from the coal seam as possible. A work area involved in pillar extraction is called a pillar section.

Modern pillar sections use remote-controlled equipment, including large hydraulic mobile roof-supports, which can prevent cave-ins until the miners and their equipment have left a work area. The mobile roof supports are similar to a large dining-room table, but with hydraulic jacks for legs. After the large pillars of coal have been mined away, the mobile roof support's legs shorten and it is withdrawn to a safe area. The mine roof typically collapses once the mobile roof supports leave an area.

Continuous Miner
Remote Joy HM21 Continuous Miner used underground

There are six principal methods of underground mining:

  • Longwall mining accounts for about 50 percent of underground production. The longwall shearer has a face of 1,000 feet (300 m) or more. It is a sophisticated machine with a rotating drum that moves mechanically back and forth across a wide coal seam. The loosened coal falls onto an armored chain conveyor or pan line that takes the coal to the conveyor belt for removal from the work area. Longwall systems have their own hydraulic roof supports which advance with the machine as mining progresses. As the longwall mining equipment moves forward, overlying rock that is no longer supported by coal is allowed to fall behind the operation in a controlled manner. The supports make possible high levels of production and safety. Sensors detect how much coal remains in the seam while robotic controls enhance efficiency. Longwall systems allow a 60-to-100 percent coal recovery rate when surrounding geology allows their use. Once the coal is removed, usually 75 percent of the section, the roof is allowed to collapse in a safe manner.[5]
  • Continuous mining utilizes a Continuous Miner Machine with a large rotating steel drum equipped with tungsten carbide picks that scrape coal from the seam. Operating in a "room and pillar" (also known as "bord and pillar") system—where the mine is divided into a series of 20-to-30-foot (5–10 m) "rooms" or work areas cut into the coalbed—it can mine as much as 14 tons of coal a minute, more than a non-mechanised mine of the 1920s would produce in an entire day. Continuous miners account for about 45 percent of underground coal production. Conveyors transport the removed coal from the seam. Remote-controlled continuous miners are used to work in a variety of difficult seams and conditions, and robotic versions controlled by computers are becoming increasingly common. Continuous mining is a misnomer, as room and pillar coal mining is very cyclical. In the US, one can generally cut 20 feet (6 meters) (or a bit more with MSHA permission) (12 meters or roughly 40 ft in South Africa before the Continuous Miner goes out and the roof is supported by the Roof Bolter), after which, the face has to be serviced, before it can be advanced again. During servicing, the "continuous" miner moves to another face. Some continuous miners can bolt and rock dust the face (two major components of servicing) while cutting coal, while a trained crew may be able to advance ventilation, to truly earn the "continuous" label. However, very few mines are able to achieve it. Most continuous mining machines in use in the US lack the ability to bolt and dust. This may partly be because incorporation of bolting makes the machines wider, and therefore, less maneuverable.
  • Room and pillar mining consists of coal deposits that are mined by cutting a network of rooms into the coal seam. Pillars of coal are left behind in order to keep up the roof. The pillars can make up to forty percent of the total coal in the seam, however where there was space to leave head and floor coal there is evidence from recent open cast excavations that 18th-century operators used a variety of room and pillar techniques to remove 92 percent of the in situ coal. However, this can be extracted at a later stage (see retreat mining).[5]
  • Blast mining or conventional mining, is an older practice that uses explosives such as dynamite to break up the coal seam, after which the coal is gathered and loaded onto shuttle cars or conveyors for removal to a central loading area. This process consists of a series of operations that begins with “cutting” the coalbed so it will break easily when blasted with explosives. This type of mining accounts for less than 5 percent of total underground production in the US today.
  • Shortwall mining, a method currently accounting for less than 1 percent of deep coal production, involves the use of a continuous mining machine with movable roof supports, similar to longwall. The continuous miner shears coal panels 150 to 200 feet (45 to 60 metres) wide and more than a half-mile (1 km) long, having regard to factors such as geological strata.
  • Retreat mining is a method in which the pillars or coal ribs used to hold up the mine roof are extracted; allowing the mine roof to collapse as the mining works back towards the entrance. This is one of the most dangerous forms of mining, owing to imperfect predictability of when the roof will collapse and possibly crush or trap workers in the mine.

Production

Top 5 Coal Producing Countries
Coal production trends 1980-2012 in the top five coal-producing countries (US EIA)
Coal mine in Inner Mongolia 002
Coal mine in China
Loy Yang open cut brown coal mine and dredgers
Coal mine in Australia

Coal is mined commercially in over 50 countries. Over 7,036 Mt/yr of hard coal was produced in 2007, a substantial increase over the previous 25 years.[9] In 2006, the world production of brown coal (lignite) was slightly over 1,000 Mt, with Germany the world's largest brown coal producer at 194.4 Mt, and China second at 100.6 Mt.[10]

Coal production has grown fastest in Asia, while Europe has declined. Since 2013, the world coal production is decreasing, -6% in 2016.[11] The top coal mining nations are:

2009 estimate of total coal production
Country Production[12]
China 3,450 Mt
United States 973 Mt
India 557 Mt
Australia 409 Mt
Russia 298 Mt
Indonesia 252 Mt
South Africa 250 Mt
Poland 135 Mt
Kazakhstan 101 Mt
Colombia 75 Mt

Most coal production is used in the country of origin, with around 16 percent of hard coal production being exported.

Coal reserves are available in almost every country worldwide, with recoverable reserves in around 70 countries. At current production levels, proven coal reserves are estimated to last 147 years.[13] However, production levels are by no means level, and are in fact increasing and some estimates are that peak coal could arrive in many countries such as China and America by around 2030. Coal reserves are usually stated as either (1) "Resources" ("measured" + "indicated" + "inferred" = "resources", and then, a smaller number, often only 10-20% of "resources", (2) "Run of Mine" (ROM) reserves, and finally (3) "marketable reserves", which may be only 60% of ROM reserves. The standards for reserves are set by stock exchanges, in consultation with industry associations. For example, in ASEAN countries reserves standards follow the Australasian Joint Ore Reserves Committee Code (JORC) used by the Australian Securities Exchange.

Modern mining

Coal Miner Laser Profiling
Laser profiling of a minesite by a coal miner using a Maptek I-site laser scanner in 2014

Technological advancements have made coal mining today more productive than it has ever been. To keep up with technology and to extract coal as efficiently as possible modern mining personnel must be highly skilled and well trained in the use of complex, state-of-the-art instruments and equipment. Many jobs require four-year university degrees. Computer knowledge has also become greatly valued within the industry as most of the machines and safety monitors are computerized.

The use of sophisticated sensing equipment to monitor air quality is common and has replaced the use of small animals such as canaries, often referred to as "miner's canaries".[14]

In the United States, the increase in technology has significantly decreased the mining workforce. in 2015 US coal mines had 65,971 employees, the lowest figure since EIA began collecting data in 1978.[15] However, a 2016 study reported that a relatively minor investment would allow most coal workers to retrain for the solar energy industry.[16]

Safety

Dangers to miners

Farmington-Mine-Disaster-smoke
The Farmington coal mine disaster kills 78. West Virginia, US, 1968.

Historically, coal mining has been a very dangerous activity and the list of historical coal mining disasters is a long one. In the US alone, more than 100,000 coal miners were killed in accidents in the twentieth century,[17] 90 percent of the fatalities occurring in the first half of the century.[18] More than 3,200 died in 1907 alone.[19]

Open cut hazards are principally mine wall failures and vehicle collisions; underground mining hazards include suffocation, gas poisoning, roof collapse, rock burst, outbursts, and gas explosions.

Firedamp explosions can trigger the much-more-dangerous coal dust explosions, which can engulf an entire pit. Most of these risks can be greatly reduced in modern mines, and multiple fatality incidents are now rare in some parts of the developed world. Modern mining in the US results in approximately 30 deaths per year due to mine accidents.[20]

However, in lesser developed countries and some developing countries, many miners continue to die annually, either through direct accidents in coal mines or through adverse health consequences from working under poor conditions. China, in particular, has the highest number of coal mining related deaths in the world, with official statistics claiming that 6,027 deaths occurred in 2004.[21] To compare, 28 deaths were reported in the US in the same year.[22] Coal production in China is twice that in the US,[23] while the number of coal miners is around 50 times that of the US, making deaths in coal mines in China 4 times as common per worker (108 times as common per unit output) as in the US.

Mine disasters have still occurred in recent years in the US,[24] Examples include the Sago Mine disaster of 2006, and the 2007 mine accident in Utah's Crandall Canyon Mine, where nine miners were killed and six entombed.[25] In the decade 2005-2014, US coal mining fatalities averaged 28 per year.[26] The most fatalities during the 2005-2014 decade were 48 in 2010, the year of the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in West Virginia, which killed 29 miners.[27]

Miner spirometry (9253624711)
Miners can be regularly monitored for reduced lung function due to coal dust exposure using spirometry.

Chronic lung diseases, such as pneumoconiosis (black lung) were once common in miners, leading to reduced life expectancy. In some mining countries black lung is still common, with 4,000 new cases of black lung every year in the US (4 percent of workers annually) and 10,000 new cases every year in China (0.2 percent of workers).[28] The use of water sprays in mining equipment reduces the risk to miners' lungs.[29] Build-ups of a hazardous gas are known as damps, possibly from the German word "Dampf" which means steam or vapor:

Noise is also a contributing factor to potential adverse effects on coal miners' health. Exposure to excessive noise can lead to noise-induced hearing loss. Hearing loss developed as a result of occupational exposures is coined occupational hearing loss. To protect miners' hearing, the US Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA) guidelines for noise place a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for noise at 90 dBA time-weighted over 8 hours. A lower cutoff, 85 dBA, is set for a worker to fall into the MSHA Action Level which dictates that workers be placed into hearing conservation programs.

Noise exposures vary depending on the method of extraction. For example, a study has found that among surface coal mine operations, dragline equipment produced the loudest sound at a range of 88-112 dBA.[30] Within longwall sections, stageloaders used to transport coal from the mining face and shearers used for extraction represent some of the highest noise exposures. Auxiliary fans (up to 120 dBA), continuous mining machines (up to 109 dBA), and roof bolters (up to 103 dBA) represent some of the noisiest equipment within continuous mining sections.[31] Exposures to noise exceeding 90 dBA can lead to adverse effects on workers' hearing. The use of administrative controls and engineering controls can be used to reduce noise exposures.

Dangers from mining waste

In the 1966 Aberfan disaster in Wales, a colliery spoil tip collapsed, engulfing a school and killing 116 children and 28 adults. Other accidents involving coal waste include the Martin County coal slurry spill (USA, 2000) and the Obed Mountain coal mine spill (Canada, 2013).

Safety Improvements

A video on the use of roof screens in underground coal mines

Improvements in mining methods (e.g. longwall mining), hazardous gas monitoring (such as safety-lamps or more modern electronic gas monitors), gas drainage, electrical equipment, and ventilation have reduced many of the risks of rock falls, explosions, and unhealthy air quality. Gases released during the mining process can be recovered to generate electricity and improve worker safety with gas engines.[32] Another innovation in recent years is the use of closed circuit escape respirators, respirators that contain oxygen for situations where mine ventilation is compromised.[33] Statistical analyses performed by the US Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) show that between 1990 and 2004, the industry cut the rate of injuries by more than half and fatalities by two-thirds. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, even in 2006, mining remained the second most dangerous occupation in America, when measured by fatality rate.[34] However, these numbers include all mining, with oil and gas mining contributing the majority of fatalities; coal mining resulted in only 47 fatalities that year.[34]

Environmental impacts

Ende Gelaende Einzug Tagebau Tag 1
Environmental activists blocking a coal mine to promote fossil fuel phase-out

Coal mining can result in a number of adverse effects on the environment.

Surface mining of coal completely eliminates existing vegetation, destroys the genetic soil profile, displaces or destroys wildlife and habitat, degrades air quality, alters current land uses, and to some extent permanently changes the general topography of the area mined.[35] This often results in a scarred landscape with no scenic value. Of greater concern, the movement, storage, and redistribution of soil during mining can disrupt the community of soil microorganisms and consequently nutrient cycling processes. Rehabilitation or reclamation mitigates some of these concerns and is required by US Federal Law, specifically the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977.

Mine dumps (tailings) could produce acid mine drainage which can seep into waterways and aquifers, with consequences on ecological and human health.

If underground mine tunnels collapse, they cause subsidence of the ground above. Subsidence can damage buildings, and disrupt the flow of streams and rivers by interfering with the natural drainage.

Coal production is a major contributor to global warming: burning coal generates large quantities of carbon dioxide and mining operations can release methane, a known greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The coal mining industry is working to improve its public image.[36]

Legality of coal mining

A court in Australia has cited climate change in ruling against a new coal mine.[37]

Coal mining by country

Top coal production countries
The six largest countries by coal production in 2015 as determined by the US Energy Information Agency.

Top 10 hard and brown coal producers in 2012 were (in million metric tons): China 3,621, United States 922, India 629, Australia 432, Indonesia 410, Russia 351, South Africa 261, Germany 196, Poland 144, and Kazakhstan 122.[38][39]

Australia

Coal is mined in every state of Australia, but mainly in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. It is mostly used to generate electricity, and 75% of annual coal production is exported, mostly to eastern Asia.

In 2007, 428 million tonnes of coal was mined in Australia.[9] In 2007, coal provided about 85% of Australia's electricity production.[40] In fiscal year 2008/09, 487 million tonnes of coal was mined, and 261 million tonnes was exported.[41] In fiscal year 2013/14, 430.9 million tonnes of coal was mined, and 375.1 million tonnes was exported.[42] In 2013/14, coal provided about 69% of Australia's electricity production.[43]

In 2013, Australia was the world's fifth-largest coal producer, after China, the United States, India, and Indonesia. However, in terms of proportion of production exported, Australia is the world's second largest coal exporter, as it exports roughly 73% of its coal production. Indonesia exports about 87% of its coal production.[43]

Canada

Canada was ranked as the 15th coal producing country in the world in 2010, with a total production of 67.9 million tonnes. Canada's coal reserves, the 12th largest in the world, are located largely in the province of Alberta.[44]

The first coal mines in North America were located in Joggins and Port Morien, Nova Scotia, mined by French settlers beginning in the late 1600s. The coal was used for the British garrison at Annapolis Royal, and in construction of the Fortress of Louisbourg.

Chile

Compared to other South American countries Chile has limited coal resources. Only Argentina is similarly poor.[45] Coal is Chile is mostly sub-bituminous with the exception of the bituminous coals of the Arauco Basin in central Chile.[46]

China

The People's Republic of China is by far the largest producer of coal in the world, producing over 2.8 billion tons of coal in 2007, or approximately 39.8 percent of all coal produced in the world during that year.[9] For comparison, the second largest producer, the United States, produced more than 1.1 billion tons in 2007. An estimated 5 million people work in China's coal-mining industry. As many as 20,000 miners die in accidents each year.[47] Most Chinese mines are deep underground and do not produce the surface disruption typical of strip mines. Although there is some evidence of reclamation of mined land for use as parks, China does not require extensive reclamation and is creating significant acreages of abandoned mined land, which is unsuitable for agriculture or other human uses, and inhospitable to indigenous wildlife. Chinese underground mines often experience severe surface subsidence (6–12 meters), negatively impacting farmland because it no longer drains well. China uses some subsidence areas for aquaculture ponds but has more than they need for that purpose. Reclamation of subsided ground is a significant problem in China. Because most Chinese coal is for domestic consumption, and is burned with little or no air pollution control equipment, it contributes greatly to visible smoke and severe air pollution in industrial areas using coal for fuel. China's total energy uses 67% from coal mines.

Colombia

Ende Gelände 2017 CHB 23 (cropped)
An open-pit coal mine in the Rhineland lignite mining area (Germany).

Some of the world's largest coal reserves are located in South America, and an opencast mine at Cerrejón in Colombia is one of the world's largest open pit mines. Output of the mine in 2004 was 24.9 million tons (compared to total global hard coal production of 4,600 million tons). Cerrejón contributed about half of Colombia's coal exports of 52 million tons that year, with Colombia ranked sixth among major coal exporting nations. The company planned to expand production to 32 million tons by 2008. The company has its own 150 km standard-gauge railroad, connecting the mine to its coal-loading terminal at Puerto Bolívar on the Caribbean coast. There are two 120-car unit trains, each carrying 12,000 tons of coal per trip. The round-trip time for each train, including loading and unloading, is about 12 hours. The coal facilities at the port are capable of loading 4,800 tons per hour onto vessels of up to 175,000 tons of dead weight. The mine, railroad and port operate 24 hours per day. Cerrejón directly employs 4,600 workers, with a further 3,800 employed by contractors. The reserves at Cerrejón are low-sulfur, low-ash, bituminous coal. The coal is mostly used for electric power generation, with some also used in steel manufacture. The surface mineable reserves for the current contract are 330 million tons. However, total proven reserves to a depth of 300 metres are 3,000 million tons.

The expansion of the Cerrejón mine has been blamed for the forced displacement of local communities.[48][49]

Germany

Germany has a long history of coal mining, going back to the Middle Ages. Coal mining greatly increased during the industrial revolution and the following decades. The main mining areas were around Aachen, the Ruhr and Saar area, along with many smaller areas in other parts of Germany. These areas grew and were shaped by coal mining and coal processing, and this is still visible even after the end of the coal mining.

Coal mining reached its peak in the first half of the 20th century. After 1950, the coal producers started to struggle financially. In 1975, a subsidy was introduced (Kohlepfennig). In 2007, the Bundestag decided to end subsidies by 2018. As a consequence, RAG Aktiengesellschaft, the owner of the two remaining coal mines in Germany, announced it would close all mines by 2018, thus ending coal mining in Germany.

India

Coal Mine
Jharia coal mine

Coal mining in India has a long history of commercial exploitation starting in 1774 with John Sumner and Suetonius Grant Heatly of the East India Company in the Raniganj Coalfield along the Western bank of Damodar River. Demand for coal remained low until the introduction of steam locomotives in 1853. After this, production rose to an annual average of 1 Mt and India produced 6.12 Mt per year by 1900 and 18 Mt per year by 1920, following increased demand in the First World War, but went through a slump in the early thirties. The production reached a level of 29 Mt by 1942 and 30 Mt by 1946. After independence, the country embarked upon five-year development plans. At the beginning of the 1st Plan, annual production went up to 33 Mt. During the 1st Plan period, the need for increasing coal production efficiently by systematic and scientific development of the coal industry was being felt. Setting up the National Coal Development Corporation (NCDC), a Government of India undertaking, in 1956 with the collieries owned by the railways as its nucleus was the first major step towards planned development of Indian Coal Industry. Along with the Singareni Collieries Company Ltd. (SCCL) which was already in operation since 1945 and which became a government company under the control of Government of Andhra Pradesh in 1956, India thus had two Government coal companies in the fifties. SCCL is now a joint undertaking of Government of Telangana and Government of India.

Japan

Daikodo of Horonai Coal Mine
The Daikōdō (大抗道), the first adit of the Horonai mine (1879).(also known as the Otowakõ (音羽坑))

The richest Japanese coal deposits have been found on Hokkaidō and Kyũshũ.

Japan has a long history of coal mining dating back into the Japanese Middle Ages. It is said that coal was first discovered in 1469 by a farming couple near Ōmuta, central Kyūshū.[50] In 1478, farmers discovered burning stones in the north of the island, which led to the exploitation of the Chikuhõ coalfield.[51]

Following Japanese industrialization additional coalfields were discovered northern Japan. One of the first mines in Hokkaidō was the Hokutan Horonai coal mine.[52]

Russia

Russia ranked as the fifth largest coal producing country in 2010, with a total production of 316.9 Mt. Russia has the world's second largest coal reserves.[53] Russia and Norway share the coal resources of the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, under the Svalbard Treaty.

Spain

Spain was ranked as the 30th coal producing country in the world in 2010. The coal miners of Spain were active in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side. In October 1934, in Asturias, union miners and others suffered a fifteen-day siege in Oviedo and Gijon. There is a museum dedicated to coal mining in the region of Catalonia, called Cercs Mine Museum.

In October 2018, the Sánchez government and Spanish Labour unions settled an agreement to close ten Spanish coal mines at the end of 2018. The government pre-engaged to spend 250 million Euro to pay for early retirements, occupational retraining and structural change. In 2018, about 2,3 per cent of the electric energy produced in Spain was produced in coal-burning power plants.[54]

South Africa

South Africa is one of the ten largest coal producing countries[55][56] and the fourth largest coal exporting country[57] in the world.

Taiwan

New Pinghsi Coal Tunnel
Abandoned coal mine in Pingxi, New Taipei.

In Taiwan, coal is distributed mainly in the northern area. All of the commercial coal deposits occurred in three Miocene coal-bearing formations, which are the Upper, the Middle and the Lower Coal Measures. The Middle Coal Measures was the most important with its wide distribution, great number of coal beds and extensive potential reserves. Taiwan has coal reserves estimated to be 100-180 Mt. However, coal output had been small, amounting to 6,948 metric tonnes per month from 4 pits before it ceased production effectively in 2000.[58] The abandoned coal mine in Pingxi District, New Taipei has now turned into the Taiwan Coal Mine Museum.[59]

Ukraine

In 2012 coal production in Ukraine amounted to 85.946 million tonnes, up 4.8% from 2011.[60] Coal consumption that same year grew to 61.207 million tonnes, up 6.2% compared with 2011.[60]

More than 90 percent of Ukraine's coal production comes from the Donets Basin.[61] The country's coal industry employs about 500,000 people.[62] Ukrainian coal mines are among the most dangerous in the world, and accidents are common.[63] Furthermore, the country is plagued with extremely dangerous illegal mines.[64]

United Kingdom

John Wilson Carmichael - A View of Murton Colliery near Seaham, County Durham - Google Art Project
A view of Murton colliery near Seaham, United Kingdom, 1843

Before the industrial revolution much of the coal was used near to its production, although there was an active trade along the North Sea coast supplying coal to Yorkshire and London.[1]

Many coalfields were developed in the industrial revolution. The oldest were in Newcastle and Durham, South Wales, the Central Belt of Scotland and the Midlands, such as those at Coalbrookdale. The oldest continuously worked deep-mine in the United Kingdom was Tower Colliery in the South Wales coalfield. This colliery was developed in 1805, and its miners bought it out at the end of the 20th century, to prevent it from being closed. Tower Colliery was finally closed on 25 January 2008.[65]

The United Kingdom was ranked as the 24th coal producing country in the world in 2010, with a total production of 18.2 million tonnes. Coal mining in the United Kingdom probably dates to Roman times; coal production increased significantly during the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century and peaked during World War I. As a result of its long history with coal Britain's economically recoverable coal reserves have decreased,[66] and more than twice as much coal is now imported than produced.[67]

United States

GROUP OF MINERS WAITING TO GO TO WORK ON THE 4 P.M. TO MIDNIGHT SHIFT AT THE VIRGINIA-POCAHONTAS COAL COMPANY MINE ^4... - NARA - 556348
Miners at the Virginia-Pocahontas Coal Company Mine in 1974

Coal was mined in America in the early 18th century, and commercial mining started around 1730 in Midlothian, Virginia.[68]

The American share of world coal production remained steady at about 20 percent from 1980 to 2005, at about 1 billion short tons per year. The United States was ranked as the second highest coal producing country in the world in 2010, and possesses the largest coal reserves in the world. In 2008 then-President George W. Bush stated that coal was the most reliable source of electricity.[69] However, in 2011 President Barack Obama said that the US should rely more on "clean" sources of energy that emit lower or no carbon dioxide pollution.[70] For a time, while domestic coal consumption for electric power was being displaced by natural gas, exports were increasing.[71] US net coal exports increased ninefold from 2006 to 2012, peaked at 117 million short tons in 2012, then declined to 63 million tons in 2015. In 2015, 60% of net US exports went to Europe, 27% to Asia.US coal production increasingly comes from strip mines in the western United States, such as from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana.[72]

Coal has come under continued price pressure from natural gas and renewable energy sources, which has resulted in a rapid decline of coal in the U.S. and several notable bankruptcies including Peabody Energy. On 13 April 2016 it reported, that its revenue had reduced by 17 percent as coal prices fell and that it had lost two billion dollars the previous year.[73] It then filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on 13 April 2016.[73] The Harvard Business Review discussed retraining coal workers for solar photovoltaic employment because of the rapid rise in U.S. solar jobs.[74] A 2016 study indicated that this was technically possible and would account for only 5% of the industrial revenue from a single year to provide coal workers with job security in the energy industry as whole.[16]

President Donald Trump pledged to bring back coal jobs during the 2016 US presidential election, and as president he announced plans to reduce environmental protection, particularly by repealing the Clean Power Plan (CPP). However, industry observers have warned that this might not lead to a boom in mining jobs[75] A 2019 projection by the Energy Information Administration estimated that coal production without CPP would decline over coming decades at a faster rate than indicated in the agency's 2017 projection, which had assumed the CPP was in effect.[76]

See also

References

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Further reading

  • Daniel Burns. The modern practice of coal mining (1907)
  • Chirons, Nicholas P. Coal Age Handbook of Coal Surface Mining (ISBN 0-07-011458-7)
  • Hamilton, Michael S. Mining Environmental Policy: Comparing Indonesia and the USA (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005). (ISBN 0-7546-4493-6).
  • Hayes, Geoffrey. Coal Mining (2004), 32 pp
  • Hughes. Herbert W, A Text-Book of Mining: For the use of colliery managers and others (London, many editions 1892-1917), the standard British textbook for its era.
  • Kuenzer, Claudia. Coal Mining in China (In: Schumacher-Voelker, E., and Mueller, B., (Eds.), 2007: BusinessFocus China, Energy: A Comprehensive Overview of the Chinese Energy Sector. gic Deutschland Verlag, 281 pp., ISBN 978-3-940114-00-6 pp. 62–68)
  • National Energy Information Center. "Greenhouse Gases, Climate Change, Energy". Retrieved 16 October 2007.
  • Charles V. Nielsen and George F. Richardson. 1982 Keystone Coal Industry Manual (1982)
  • Saleem H. Ali. "Minding our Minerals, 2006."
  • A.K. Srivastava. Coal Mining Industry in India (1998) (ISBN 81-7100-076-2)
  • Department of Trade and Industry, UK. "The Coal Authority". Archived from the original on 13 October 2008. Retrieved 16 October 2007.
  • Tonge, James. The principles and practice of coal mining (1906)
  • Woytinsky, W. S., and E. S. Woytinsky. World Population and Production Trends and Outlooks (1953) pp 840–881; with many tables and maps on the worldwide coal industry in 1950

External links

Anthracite

Anthracite, often referred to as hard coal, is a hard, compact variety of coal that has a submetallic luster. It has the highest carbon content, the fewest impurities, and the highest energy density of all types of coal and is the highest ranking of coals.

Anthracite is the most metamorphosed type of coal (but still represents low-grade metamorphism), in which the carbon content is between 92% and 98%. The term is applied to those varieties of coal which do not give off tarry or other hydrocarbon vapours when heated below their point of ignition. Anthracite ignites with difficulty and burns with a short, blue, and smokeless flame.

Anthracite is categorized into standard grade, which is used mainly in power generation, and high grade (HG) and ultra high grade (UHG), the principal uses of which are in the metallurgy sector. Anthracite accounts for about 1% of global coal reserves, and is mined in only a few countries around the world. China accounts for the majority of global production; other producers are Russia, Ukraine, North Korea, South Africa, Vietnam, the UK, Australia, Canada and the US. Total production in 2010 was 670 million tons.

Business magnate

A business magnate or industrialist is an entrepreneur of great influence, importance, or standing in a particular enterprise or field of business. The term characteristically refers to a wealthy entrepreneur or investor who controls, through personal business ownership or dominant shareholding position, a firm or industry whose goods or services are widely consumed. Such individuals may also be called czars, moguls, proprietors, tycoons, taipans, barons, or oligarchs.

Coal

Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock, formed as rock strata called coal seams. Coal is mostly carbon with variable amounts of other elements; chiefly hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen.

Coal is formed if dead plant matter decays into peat and over millions of years the heat and pressure of deep burial converts the peat into coal. Vast deposits of coal originates in former wetlands—called coal forests—that covered much of the Earth's tropical land areas during the late Carboniferous (Pennsylvanian) and Permian times.As a fossil fuel burned for heat, coal supplies about a quarter of the world's primary energy and two-fifths of its electricity. Some iron and steel making and other industrial processes burn coal.

The extraction and use of coal causes many premature deaths and much illness. Coal damages the environment, including by climate change as it is the largest anthropogenic source of carbon dioxide, 14 Gt in 2016, which is 40% of the total fossil fuel emissions. As part of the worldwide energy transition many countries have stopped using or use less coal.

The largest consumer and importer of coal is China. China mines account for almost half the world's coal, followed by India with about a tenth. Australia accounts for about a third of world coal exports followed by Indonesia and Russia.

Coal Authority

The Coal Authority is a non-departmental public body of the United Kingdom government.

Coal in Australia

Coal is mined in every state of Australia. Mining occurs mainly in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. About 75% of coal mined in Australia is exported, mostly to eastern Asia, and of the balance most is used in electricity generation. Coal production in Australia increased 13.6% between 2005 and 2010 and 5.3% between 2009 and 2010. In 2016, Australia was the biggest net exporter of coal, with 32% of global exports (389 Mt out of 1,213 Mt total), and was the fourth-highest producer with 6.9% of global production (503 Mt out of 7,269 Mt total). 77% of production was exported (389 Mt out of 503 Mt total).Coal mining in Australia has been criticized by members of the environmental movement, due to carbon dioxide emissions during combustion. This criticism is primarily directed at thermal coal, for its connection to coal-fired power stations as a major source of carbon dioxide emissions, and the link to climate change and the effects of global warming on Australia. The burning of coal for electricity produces 29% of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions, based on 2013-2014 Clean Energy Regulator data.The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which followed the draft report in the Garnaut Climate Change Review, placed a price on carbon emissions through a reducing cap and trade emissions trading scheme and incentivised against carbon pollution temporarily, before it was revoked from 1 July 2014 onwards.

Coal in China

China is the largest producer and consumer of coal in the world and is the largest user of coal-derived electricity. The share of coal in the energy mix has declined during the 2010s, falling from 80% in 2010 to 60% in 2017. Domestic coal production has also decreased with a year on year decline of 9% in 2016. However, imports of coal have increased to compensate for the cuts to domestic coal production.Overall electricity consumption has continued to rise. The rise in demand for electricity has meant the continued construction of new coal fired power plants. To curtail the pace of coal fired power plant construction, National Energy Administration in January 2017 canceled coal fired power plant permits that would have amounted to 120 GW of future capacity. However, local authorities seeking to create jobs have resisted the efforts of central authorities to cut back. Based on analysis of satellite photos in 2018, environmental NGO CoalSwarm claims that 259 GW of new coal power plant capacity is under construction including plants that central authorities had canceled, postponed or slowed down.

Coal mining in India

Coal mining in India began in 1774 when John Sumner and Suetonius Grant Heatly of the East India Company commenced commercial exploitation in the Raniganj Coalfield along the Western bank of Damodar river. Growth remained slow for nearly a century due to low demand. The introduction of steam locomotives in 1853 boosted demand, and coal production rose to an annual average of 1 million metric tons (1.1 million short tons). India produced 6.12 million metric tons (6.75 million short tons) of coal per year by 1900 and 18 million metric tons (20 million short tons) per year by 1920. Coal production rose steadily over the next few decades, and was boosted by demand caused by World War I. Production slumped in the interwar period, but rose to 30 million metric tons (33 million short tons) by 1946 largely as a result of World War II.

In the regions of British India known as Bengal, Bihar and Odisha, the Indians pioneered Indian involvement in coal mining from 1894. They broke the previous monopolies held by British and other Europeans, establishing many collieries. Seth Khora Ramji Chawda of Sinugra was the first Indian to break the British monopoly in the Jharia Coalfields. Other Indian communities followed the example of the Kshatriyas in the Dhanbad-Jharia-Bokaro fields after the 1930s. These included the Punjabis, Kutchis, Marwaris, Gujaratis, Sindhis and Hindustanis. Following independence, the Government of India introduced several 5-year development plans. Annual production rose to 33 million metric tons (36 million short tons) at the beginning of the First Five Year Plan. The National Coal Development Corporation (NCDC) was established in 1956 with the aim of increasing coal production efficiently by systematic and scientific development of the coal industry.

The Indira Gandhi administration nationalized coal mining in phases - coking coal mines in 1971-72 and non-coking coal mines in 1973. With the enactment of the Coal Mines (Nationalization) Act, 1973, all coal mines in India were nationalized on 1 May 1973. This policy was reversed by the Narendra Modi administration four decades later. In March 2015, the government permitted private companies to mine coal for use in their own cement, steel, power or aluminium plants. The Coking Coal Mines (Nationalization) Act, 1972 and the Coal Mines (Nationalization) Act, 1973 were repealed on 8 January 2018. In the final step toward denationalization, on 20 February 2018, the government permitted private firms to enter the commercial coal mining industry. Under the new policy, mines will be auctioned to the firm offering the highest per tonne price. The move broke the monopoly over commercial mining that state-owned Coal India has enjoyed since nationalisation in 1973.

India has the fifth largest coal reserves in the world, and is the fourth largest producer of coal in the world, producing 662.79 million metric tons (730.60 million short tons) in 2016-17. As on 31 March 2017, India had 315.14 billion metric tons (347.38 billion short tons) of the resource. The estimated total reserves of lignite coal as on 31 March 2017 was 44.70 billion metric tons (49.27 billion short tons). Due to high demand and poor average quality, India is forced to import high quality coal to meet the requirements of steel plants. India's coal imports have risen from 49.79 million metric tons (0.05488 billion short tons) in 2007-08 to 190.95 million metric tons (0.21049 billion short tons) in 2016-17. India's coal exports rose from 1.63 million metric tons (1.80 million short tons) in 2007-08 to 2.44 million metric tons (2.69 million short tons) in 2012-13, but subsequently declined to 1.77 million metric tons (1.95 million short tons) in 2016-17. Dhanbad city is the largest coal producing city

Coal mining in the United Kingdom

Coal mining in the United Kingdom dates back to Roman times and occurred in many different parts of the country. Britain's coalfields are associated with Northumberland and Durham, North and South Wales, Yorkshire, the Scottish Central Belt, Lancashire, Cumbria, the East and West Midlands and Kent. After 1970, coal mining quickly collapsed and practically disappeared in the 21st century. The consumption of coal – mostly for electricity – fell from 157 million tonnes in 1970 to 18 million tonnes in 2016. Of the coal mined, 77% of supplies were imported from Colombia, Russia and the United States. Of the coal mined in the UK in 2016 all was from open-cast coal mines. Employment in coal mines fell from a peak of 1,191,000 in 1920 to 695,000 in 1956, 247,000 in 1976, 44,000 in 1993, and to 2,000 in 2015.Almost all onshore coal resources in the UK occur in rocks of the Carboniferous age, some of which extend under the North Sea. Bituminous coal is present in most of Britain's coalfields and is 86% to 88% carbon. In Northern Ireland, there are extensive deposits of lignite which is less energy-dense based on oxidation (combustion) at ordinary combustion temperatures (i.e. for the oxidation of carbon - see fossil fuels).The last deep coal mine in the UK closed on 18 December 2015. Twenty-six open cast mines still remain open and Banks Mining said in 2018 they planned to start mining a new site in County Durham.

Coal mining in the United States

Coal mining in the United States is an industry in transition. Production in 2017 was down 33% from the peak production of 1,162.7 million tons (about 1054.8 million metric tonnes) in 2006. Employment of 50,000 coal miners is down from a peak of 883,000 in 1923. Generation of electricity is the largest user of coal, being used to produce 50% of electric power in 2005 and 30% in 2016. The U.S. is a net exporter of coal. U.S. coal exports, for which Europe is the largest customer, peaked in 2012. In 2015, the U.S. exported 7.0 percent of mined coal.Coal remains an important factor in the 25 states in which it is mined. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2015 Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, and Pennsylvania produced about 639 millions of short tons (MST) representing 71% of total U.S. coal production in the United States.In 2015, four publicly-traded US coal companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, including Patriot Coal Corporation, Walter Energy, and the fourth-largest Alpha Natural Resources. By January 2016, more than 25% of coal production was in bankruptcy in the United States including the top two producers Peabody Energy and Arch Coal. When Arch Coal filed for bankruptcy protection, the price of coal had dropped 50% since 2011 and it was $4.5 billion in debt. On October 5, 2016, Arch Coal emerged from chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In October 2018, Westmoreland Coal Company filed for bankruptcy protection.

Environmental impact of the coal industry

The environmental impact of the coal industry includes issues such as land use, waste management, water and air pollution, caused by the coal mining, processing and the use of its products. In addition to atmospheric pollution, coal burning produces hundreds of millions of tons of solid waste products annually, including fly ash, bottom ash, and flue-gas desulfurization sludge, that contain mercury, uranium, thorium, arsenic, and other heavy metals.

There are severe health effects caused by burning coal. According to a report by the World Health Organization in 2008, coal particulates pollution are estimated to shorten approximately 1,000,000 lives annually worldwide. A 2004 study commissioned by environmental groups, but contested by the US EPA, concluded that coal burning costs 24,000 lives a year in the United States. More recently, an academic study estimated that the premature deaths from coal related air pollution was about 52,000. When compared to electricity produced from natural gas via hydraulic fracturing, coal electricity is 10-100 times more toxic, largely due to the amount of particulate matter emitted during combustion. When coal is compared to solar photovoltaic generation, the latter could save 51,999 American lives per year if solar were to replace coal generation in the U.S. Due to the decline of jobs related to coal mining a study found that approximately one American suffers a premature death from coal pollution for every job remaining in coal mining.In addition, the list of historical coal mining disasters is a long one, although work related coal deaths has declined substantially as safety measures have been enacted and underground mining has given up market share to surface mining. Underground mining hazards include suffocation, gas poisoning, roof collapse and gas explosions. Open cut hazards are principally mine wall failures and vehicle collisions. In the United States, an average of 26 coal miners per year died in the decade 2005–2014.

Forbach

Forbach (French pronunciation: ​[fɔʁbak], Lorraine Franconian: Fuerboch, German: Forbach) is a commune in the department of Moselle in the northeastern French Region of Grand Est.

It is located on the German border approximately 15 minutes from the center of Saarbrücken, Germany, with which it constitutes a cross-border conurbation, and is part of the Saar-Moselle Eurodistrict. According to the 2011 national census, Forbach had a population of 21,954 inhabitants, which, including its greater urban area, makes it the largest town in the eastern Moselle area.

Before the Schengen Treaty, Forbach was a major border crossing at which customs procedures were carried out, both for road and for rail transport and travel. Here, trains also change track sides from right-hand running (Germany) to left-hand running (France). Since 2007, the TGV and ICE high speed trains connecting Paris and Frankfurt have stopped at the station in Forbach, and passengers can now travel to Paris Gare de l'Est in 1 hour and 45 minutes and to the German financial center and airport in the Frankfurt and Rhine-Main metropolis in 2 hours.

Its location in the Saar-Warndt coal mining basin, which extends into eastern Moselle, made Forbach an important mining town, with offices of the Houillères du Bassin de Lorraine (Lorraine coal mining board), a section of the French Coal Board. When the mining operations were permanently shut down in 2004, Forbach turned to activities in the tourism, service, energy and other industries to rebuild the local economy. The "Musée des Mineurs - Wendel" in the neighboring village of Petite-Rosselle is a coal mining museum which preserves the industrial and cultural heritage from the coal mining era in the Forbach region. It was awarded the "Musées de France" quality label in 2002.

History of coal mining

The history of coal mining goes back thousands of years. It became important in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries, when it was primarily used to power steam engines, heat buildings and generate electricity. Coal mining continues as an important economic activity today. Compared to wood fuels, coal yields a higher amount of energy per mass and can often be obtained in areas where wood is not readily available. Though it was used historically as a domestic fuel, coal is now used mostly in industry, especially in smelting and alloy production as well as electricity generation. Large-scale coal mining developed during the Industrial Revolution, and coal provided the main source of primary energy for industry and transportation in industrial areas from the 18th century to the 1950s. Coal remains an important energy source because of its low cost and abundance compared to other fuels, particularly for electricity generation. Coal is also mined today on a large scale by open pit methods wherever the coal strata strike the surface or are relatively shallow. Britain developed the main techniques of underground coal mining from the late 18th century onward, with further progress being driven by 19th century and early 20th century progress. However, oil and gas were increasingly used as alternatives from the 1860s onward.

By the late 20th century, coal was, for the most part, replaced in domestic as well as industrial and transportation usage by oil, natural gas or electricity produced from oil, gas, nuclear power or renewable energy sources. By 2010, coal produced over a fourth of the world's energy, and by 2050 it is expected to produce about a third.Since 1890, coal mining has also been a political and social issue. Coal miners' labour and trade unions became powerful in many countries in the 20th century, and often, the miners were leaders of the Left or Socialist movements (as in Britain, Germany, Poland, Japan, Chile, Canada and the U.S.) Since 1970, environmental issues have been increasingly important, including the health of miners, destruction of the landscape from strip mines and mountaintop removal, air pollution, and coal combustion's contribution to global warming.

Mountaintop removal mining

Mountaintop removal mining (MTR), also known as mountaintop mining (MTM), is a form of surface mining at the summit or summit ridge of a mountain. Coal seams are extracted from a mountain by removing the land, or overburden, above the seams. This method of coal mining is conducted in the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States. Explosives are used to remove up to 400 vertical feet (120 m) of mountain to expose underlying coal seams. Excess rock and soil is dumped into nearby valleys, in what are called "holler fills" or "valley fills". Less expensive to execute and requiring fewer employees, mountaintop removal mining began in Appalachia in the 1970s as an extension of conventional strip mining techniques. It is primarily occurring in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee.

The practice of mountaintop removal mining has been controversial. The coal industry cites economic benefits and asserts that mountaintop removal is safer than underground mining. Published scientific studies have found that mountaintop mining has serious environmental impacts that mitigation practices cannot successfully address. A high potential for human health impacts has also been reported.

National Coal Board

The National Coal Board (NCB) was the statutory corporation created to run the nationalised coal mining industry in the United Kingdom. Set up under the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946, it took over the United Kingdom's collieries on "vesting day", 1 January 1947. In 1987, the NCB was renamed the British Coal Corporation, and its assets were subsequently privatised.

National Coal Mining Museum for England

The National Coal Mining Museum for England is based at the site of Caphouse Colliery in Overton, near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England. It opened in 1988 as the Yorkshire Mining Museum and was granted national status in 1995.

Open-pit coal mining in the United Kingdom

Open-pit coal mining in the United Kingdom is in decline. Output has fallen every year since 2010. In 2010, the United Kingdom was forecast to produce about ten million tonnes (9,800,000 long tons; 11,000,000 short tons) of coal a year from open-pit mines. Most came from Scotland, with the largest operator there being the Scottish Coal subsidiary of Scottish Resources Group. Actual production in 2010 was over 13 million tonnes but this has declined to less than 8 million tonnes in 2014.

Statistics on open-pit coal mining are compiled by the British Geological Survey from information provided by local planning authorities. Open-pit coal mines usually last four or five years at extraction rates of up to a quarter-million tons a year.

South Wales Coalfield

The South Wales Coalfield (Welsh: Maes glo De Cymru) is a large region of south Wales that is rich in coal deposits, especially the South Wales Valleys. It supported a large part, but not all, of the coal industry in Wales.

Western Coal Field

The West Kentucky Coal Field comprises an area in the west-central and northwestern part of the state, bounded by the Dripping Springs Escarpment and the Pennyroyal Plateau and the Ohio River, but is part of the Illinois Basin that extends into Indiana and Illinois. It is characterized by Pennsylvanian age sandstones, shales and coal. Nearly all of the counties in the area are part of the television market known as the Kentucky–Illinois–Indiana tri-state area.

Yanzhou Coal Mining Company

Yanzhou Coal Mining Company (simplified Chinese: 兖州煤业公司; traditional Chinese: 兗州煤業公司), majority owned by Yankuang Group, is a coal mining company in Mainland China. It is engaged in underground mining coal preparation and sales, and railway transportation service of coal. Its products are mainly low-sulphur coal which is suitable for large-scale power plant and for use in pulverized coal injection.

Coal types by grade
(lowest to highest)
Coal combustion
Coal mining

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