The USA is the world’s second largest coal producer after China. The country had an estimated mine production of 916.7 Mt in 2002. Coal production in the USA is spread throughout the country. Increases in production have been note in the western regions, in particular the Powder River Basin (PRB) in Wyoming which accounts for 35% of the USA’s production. The PRB produces low ash, low sulphur coal, suitable for use since the Clean Air Act of 1990.
Phase 1 of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA) calls for lower sulphur emissions from coal combustion. As a result, production from the interior Midwest regions has decreased. Phase 2 of the CAAA is due to take effect in 2000 and calls for even further reductions in sulphur emissions. The Appalachian region has also experienced a drop in production due to the drop in demand for coking quality coals domestically and for the export market.
The coal industry in the USA has seen several restructurings and changes as a result of several smaller producers exiting the local scene. At present, the main coal producing companies are Peabody, Rio Tinto, Arch Coal and AEI.
As mentioned the PRB in Wyoming is one of the largest producers, accounting for 35% of the US’ production, followed by West Virginia (14%) and Kentucky (10%). The US coal industry currently employs 80 000 people, down from 700 000 in the 1920’s when production was half of what is currently is.
Arch Coal is the USA’s second largest coal producer. Arch Coal has operations in central Appalachia (Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia), the PRB (Wyoming) and the Western Bituminous region (Colorado and Utah). Arch Coal is the USA’s largest supplier of low sulphur coal in the eastern USA.
The USA’s foremost coal producer is the Peabody Group with 34 coal operations located in the USA. This amount is responsible for generating 9% of the USA’s power requirements that equates to 2% of the world’s electricity needs. Two thirds of its production is sourced from the Western parts of the country, primarily from the Powder River Basin area. The low sulphur content of the Powder River coal represents 81% of Peabody’s total sales each year. The companies current coal reserves are estimated at 9 100 Mt of which nearly half is considered low sulphur. Peabody has amalgamated two of its Wyoming operations to form one of the largest coal mine in the USA. The “North Antelope/Rochelle” coal mine produces approximately 65 Mt of low-sulphur coal each year.
Other major producers include:
AEI Resources the country’s fourth largest coal producer with a capacity of 50 Mt per year.
RAG Coal International produced a total of 60 Mt to the American domestic market (electrical industry) from seven underground mines located in the eastern and western USA. RAG also operates two opencast mines in the Powder River Basin.
Consol Energy is the largest producer of high Btu bituminous coal in the USA as well as being the country’s largest coal exporter. It operates 23 bituminous coal mining complexes in six states and two Canadian provinces, with the majority of its operations located in Northern and Central Appalachia as well as in the MidWest. Consol also operates several of the largest underground coal mines in the USA.
BHP Billiton operates three opencast thermal coal mines (Navajo, San Juan and La Plata) located in the Four Corners region in New Mexico. Approval has been granted for the underground development of the San Juan thermal coal mine. The underground development will extend BHP Billiton’s coal operations as the production from the existing surface mines at San Juan and la Plata winds down.
Foundation Coal Holdings, Inc., Patriot Coal Corporation, Rio Tinto Energy America, Absaloka Coal Mine, AEI Resources, Alliance Resource Partners L.P., American Metals and Coal International Corp, Arch Coal Inc., Centennial Power Inc, Consol Energy, Drummond Company Inc., Kennecott Energy & Coal Company, Massey Energy Company, Mission Energy, National Coal Corp., Peabody Energy Corporation, Penn Virginia Resource Partners, L.P., Quest Minerals and Mining Corp., Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute, Triton Coal Company
Antelope, Aqqaluk, Aurora, Bagdad, Bailey, Bald Mountain, Barneys Canyon, Betze – Poste, Bingham Canyon, Black Thunder, Blacksville, Briggs, Buchanan, Caledonia Mine, Camden Deposit, Candelaria, Carlota, Castle Mountain, Chino, Clinch Valley
Arch Coal Inc.
BHP Billiton Limited
BHP Billiton operates the San Juan and La Plata coal mines, all situated in New Mexico.
Consol is the USA’s largest coal exporter and producer of high Btu bituminous coal.
Peabody Energy Corporation
Peabody is one of the USA’s largest coal producers with operations throughout the USA.
RAG Coal International AG
Rio Tinto Plc
Through wholly owned subsidiary, Kennecott Energy, Rio tinto has interests in coal mining operations in the Powder River Basin, Montana as well as in Colorado.