National Academies Press: OpenBook

Coal Mining (1978)

Chapter: INTRODUCTION

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Suggested Citation:"INTRODUCTION." National Research Council. 1978. Coal Mining. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18766.
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Suggested Citation:"INTRODUCTION." National Research Council. 1978. Coal Mining. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18766.
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Page 6

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II INTRODUCTION The Panel on Coal Mining Technology of the NFC Committee on Processing and Utilization of Fossil Fuels has examined the prospects for meeting present and future U.S. coal requirements from the standpoint of the amount and characteristics of reserves, underground and surface mining techniques, processing techniques, manpower and transportation requirements, and regulatory and social issues. In this report, the problem areas are identified and specific recommendations are made for improving the capability of the industry to meet the nation's needs for coal. Although coal is the nation's most abundant fossil fuel, it supplies only 19 percent of U.S. energy requirements. In 1947, coal production reached 631 million tons, and 420 thousand men were employed in the industry. In subsequent years, production decreased substantially as did employment (to 129 thousand men in 1969). Production now is increasing and reached an all-time high of 671 million tons in 1976 with employment having increased to 169 thousand. The U.S. Bureau of Mines estimates that by 1985 underground production will increase by 160 million tons and western surface mining, by 255 million tons for a total 1985 production of 1.1 billion tons. Underground raining contributed more tons each year than did surface mining until 1974 when surface production exceeded underground. It is expected to continue to increase more rapidly than underground for about the next 10 years because of the opening up of large surface operations in the western United States. The greatest use of coal is for electric power generation, which presently consumes approximately 66 percent of production. The second largest consumer (15 percent) is the steel industry, which uses metallurgical coal for manufacturing coke. Coal for export, again mostly metallurgical coal, is next and accounts for approximately 10 percent of total output. The balance of production is used by the chemical industry and for industrial and commercial heating and other miscellaneous purposes.

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