with suppliers and the larger mining clients on evolutionary product developments. However, there is little evidence of the efficient transfer of technologies from outside the mining industry. This is at least partly due to the relatively small market that the coal mining industry represents to potential technology suppliers and the scarcity of coal mining research at academic institutions and national laboratories.
Recommendation: There should be renewed support for advanced coal mining and processing research and development to optimize use of the nation’s coal resources by increasing the amount of coal that is economically minable through technological advances that accommodate health, safety, and environmental requirements. The focus of this R&D should be on increased integration of modern technology in the extraction and processing phases of coal production, with particular emphasis on emerging advances in materials, sensors, and controls; monitoring; and automated mining systems.
Research to develop advanced mining technologies requires not only cooperation among relevant federal agencies, but also participation by academic institutions, as well as funding, guidance, and technology transfer by industry. The committee estimates that advanced coal mining and processing R&D will require approximately $60 million per year and recommends that this funding be comprised of $30 million in federal support, with cost sharing from non-federal sources. The DOE Office of Fossil Energy should be the lead federal agency, and should coordinate with NSF, OSM, NIOSH, academic institutions, and the coal industry to ensure that all research activities carefully consider the environmental, reclamation, and health and safety aspects of coal mining.
With the electric power sector accounting for more than 90 percent of U.S. coal use, transportation of coal to the more than 600 coal-burning power plant sites in the nation is especially important. Of these plants, rail transportation serves approximately 58 percent, waterborne transportation serves 17 percent, trucks serve 10 percent, 12 percent are served by multiple modes of transportation (primarily rail and barge), and 3 percent are minemouth plants with conveyor systems. In 2004, more than 85 percent of coal shipments were delivered to consumers by either rail (684 million tons), truck (129 million tons), or water (98 million tons). One-third of all coal delivered to power plants is subject to at least one transloading along the transportation chain.
Growth in the use of coal depends on having sufficient capacity to deliver increasing amounts of coal reliably and at reasonable prices to an end user. The capacity, reliability, and price of rail transportation—the dominant mode of coal