Twenty-five states in the US carry out coal mining with Wyoming producing the largest amount of coal in the country. These coal mines produce about a billion tons of coal annually for generation of electricity and steel making. The US employs innovative technology and equipment in the mining process to maximize efficiency, safety, and production. Global Positioning Satellite, Computer Based Engineering and dispatching, and other environmentally friendly technologies are used in the coal mining processes in the country.
An Overview Of Coal Production In The US
Over 40% of coal mining and production in the US is done on public lands; however, mining had reduced marginally from 1.17 billion short tons in 2008 to 986 million short tons in 2015. Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois and Pennsylvania account for over 70% of the total coal industry in the US. Montana, Texas, Indiana, North Dakota, Colorado, Ohio, New Mexico, Utah, Alabama, and Virginia are known to be the average producing states with a convincing tonnage. Arizona, Mississippi, Louisiana, Maryland, Alaska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, and Kansas produce small tonnage of coal compared to the other states. There are ten major coal mining companies in the US accounting for over 70% of the total coal produced with Peabody Energy and Arch coal as the major players. In the US, 90% representing 1,047 million short tons of locally used coal is utilized in electricity generation, producing close to 2.02 million Gigawatts of electricity. 4.5% is used in industrial settings and about 2% used to manufacture coke. Domestic coal consumption for power production is being displaced by natural gas in many places. Higher-rank coal (anthracite and bituminous) production has reduced steadily over the years as production of lower rank coal (sub-bituminous and lignite) has been on the increase. This has also occasioned the decrease of heat content of US coal.
Employment Generation By The Coal Industry In The US
Currently, the coal industry employs approximately 77,000 people, however, between 2011 and 2017, over 60,000 jobs has been lost in this sector. The decline can be attributed to several factors such as improved and efficient technology that has increased efficiency and productivity, the decline in coal deposits and cost cutting measures by companies. Highest coal employment data ever recorded was in 1923 with over 863,000 workers. The decline has also been attributed to increased reliance on other sources of energy such as solar and wind energy.
Coal Export By The US
The US is one of the leading players in the coal export industry. Between 2006 and 2012, exports increased reaching a peak of 117 million tons and declined to 63 million tons by 2015. Over 60% of exports went to Europe with the Netherlands importing the largest tonnage of 1.9 million short tons. Asia imported approximately 27% of coal from the US with India and South Korea accounting for 6.4 million and 6.1 million short tons respectively. Coal export from the US has decreased over time due to a decrease in supplies.
Safety Of The Workers
Though greatly reduced, mine accidents have occurred in the recent years. In 2006 and 2007, nine mine workers were killed and six others trapped or buried alive in Sago and Crandall Canyon Mines. An estimated average of 30 people die every year due to mining-related causes with the biggest accidents occurring in Big Branch Mine, West Virginia which left 29 people dead. There has been opposition from environmental conservationists and climate change advocates against the contribution of coal mines to global warming. A notable activist is the former vice president Al Gore who, in 2007, opposed the erection of new coal-fired power plants. Coal-fired power plants are today politically costly to governments due to pressure from different campaigns that influence public opinion. Pro coal-fired power from the government and mining companies has failed to convince local populations of its environmental friendliness because coal is among the principal carbon dioxide emitters.
Effects Of Declining Use Of Coal On The US Coal Industry
Federal coal makes up about 80% of all the coal produced in the 25 states. With discovery and diversification of alternative sources of energy, the production of coal has been on the decline occasioning the loss of jobs and coal companies running bankrupt. With technological advancement and decline in coal deposits, the mineral is slowly losing its place as a leading energy source in the US.
Coal Production by State
|Coal produced (2014, tons)