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Estimates of Central Appalachian Coal Reserves by Cost of Production and Sulfur Content

Jeffrey Watkins

This study provides information on the quantity, quality, and production costs for all minable coal reserves in the major coal-producing counties of central Appalachia, a region that contains the large majority of low-sulfur and compliance coal reserves in the eastern United States.

In the past, reports on the coal reserves and resources of Appalachia have been based on estimates generated by geologists from coal thickness and distribution data collected during field reconnaissance work and from previously published geological maps and reports. These data were used to generate resource estimates under various reliability categories, depending on the quality and quantity of the data. Although this method is adequate for generating reasonable estimates of total coal resources in an area, it does not provide a realistic estimate of minable coal reserves under a limiting set of economic conditions such as coal price and quality.

Presently, the best source of detailed reserve information in the Appalachian region is the estimates produced by the mining and land holding companies that control the reserves. We have been able to obtain overall reserve estimates based on the detailed geological and engineering studies conducted by these companies. In areas where this information does not exist, we have relied on published estimates of reserves and modified these estimates based on known conditions on surrounding properties. This reserve information has been combined with data on coal quality and mining costs to produce cost curves for all minable coal reserves by sulfur content.

Results to date indicate that most of the major coal-producing counties in central Appalachia will be able to increase production levels significantly on a sustainable basis for at least the next 20 years, without major real increases in coal prices.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91031©1988 AAPG Eastern Section, Charleston, West Virginia, 13-16 September 1988.