Datapages, Inc.Print this page

Abstract: Assessing the Nation's Coal Resources: The Role of a Federal Agency


The coal resources of the United States are extremely large, are many times the annual rate of consumption, and are widely distributed geographically. However, only a small portion of the resources that are generally reported will ever be recovered. It is the identification and characterization of those `reserves' that are of interest to individuals and organizations concerned with the future production and utilization of coal in the United States.

Historically the coal industry has undergone significant changes in recovering coal (surface and underground), in methods of mining (drag-line or truck and shovel surface mining; conventional, continuous, or long wall underground mining), and in the geographic locations of the mines (increasing production west of the Mississippi River). All of these changes have been dictated, in part, by the nature of the resource, including both physical and chemical attributes. Mining companies concentrate their reserve studies on individual properties; state geological surveys are constrained by State boundaries; and integrating coal resource investigations on a national basis has become the purview of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Coal resource assessment activities at the USGS are designed to locate, assess the quantities, characterize the quality, and evaluate the availability and recoverability of those coal resources and reserves that will supply the U.S. needs in the twenty-first century. Coal availability and coal recoverability studies are done on relatively large scale (areas as small as a single 7.5 minute quadrangle), regional studies on a smaller scale (e.g., the entire Illinois Basin), with results extrapolated to a national scale.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90939©1997 AAPG Eastern Section and TSOP, Lexington, Kentucky