tant coal quality parameters beyond the immediate areas of sampling (mostly drill samples). Almost certainly, coals mined in the future will be lower quality because current mining practices result in higher-quality coal being mined first,6 leaving behind lower-quality material (e.g., with higher ash yield, higher sulfur, and/or higher concentrations of potentially harmful elements). The consequences of relying on poorer-quality coal for the future include (1) higher mining costs (e.g., the need for increased tonnage to generate an equivalent amount of energy, greater abrasion of mining equipment); (2) transportation challenges (e.g., the need to transport increased tonnage for an equivalent amount of energy); (3) beneficiation challenges (e.g., the need to reduce ash yield to acceptable levels, the creation of more waste); (4) pollution control challenges (e.g., capturing higher concentrations of particulates, sulfur, and trace elements; dealing with increased waste disposal); and (5) environmental and health challenges. Improving the ability to forecast coal quality will assist with mitigating the economic, technological, environmental, and health impacts that may result from the lower quality of the coal that is anticipated to be mined in the future.


The World Energy Council (WEC) publishes, on a triennial schedule, a Survey of Energy Resources, the most recent of which is the twentieth edition (WEC, 2004). This survey includes fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), uranium and nuclear fuel, and renewable resources. Where relevant, tables are published of fossil fuel resources and reserves, with data derived from member countries of the WEC and from non-WEC sources. The WEC data tables for coal are widely accepted, used, and quoted by numerous agencies and entities (e.g., IEA, 2004; BP, 2006; EIA, 2006f). Collecting reliable and comprehensive data on a worldwide basis, from more than 75 countries, presents a significant challenge for the authors of the publication—in particular, they note that resource and reserve definitions can differ widely among countries (WEC, 2004). In an attempt to improve the data on resources and reserves of fossil fuels and uranium, the WEC has been coordinating with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) seeking to adopt a uniform set of definitions; however, uniform definitions were not in place for the 2004 edition. International data for proved recoverable reserves presented by WEC (2004) are listed in Appendix D.

The 10 countries that reported the largest quantity of proved recoverable reserves (Figure 3.3) have, in aggregate, 92 percent of the world’s proved recoverable reserves. The top three countries—the United States, the Russian Federation, and China—contain 57 percent of proved recoverable reserves. China, which produced 40 percent more coal in 2002 than the United States, reported proved


This practice is known as highgrading.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement