The most important technological improvement in U.S. coal mining during the past 50 years was the application of long-wall mining, according to sources in the West Virginia Coal Industry.
For long-walls, the average number of tons produced per shift rose near 2,000 tons during the recent five-decade period, officials said.
Currently, there are an estimated 50,000 workers employed at surface operations, and about 80,000 miners are employed for the underground mines.
The United States now mines about 980 million tons of coal annually.
Even so, the U. S. can mine coal at this rate for the next 1,000 years, and still not exhaust the reserves.
Twenty-seven of the 50 states are now mining coal, with recoverable reserves in at least 33 states.
The Eastern (Appalachian) states produce large amounts of the black, combustible mineral solid used a fuel.
In 1997, West Virginia produced more than 170 million tons of coal.
West Virginia is the leading source of U.S. coal distributed abroad, with foreign shipments totaling more than 40 million short tons, representing about 45 percent of total foreign distributions.
Historically, Appalachia has been the nation’s most important source of coal.
Nearly 90 percent of all U.S. coal mines are located within the region, counting for approximately 46 percent of total U.S. coal production.
Appalachia is the dominant supplier of coal that can be used to make coke for use in the steel industry: metallurgical or coking coal. It also is the principal source of coal for export to other countries.
At the same time, Appalachia is the nation’s most diverse coal producing region in terms of consumer characteristics, the kinds of coal produced, production methods and mine size, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Central Appalachia is the primary source of high bituminous, low-sulfur coal.
Although Appalachia is known for its hundreds of small mines that open and close as coal prices rise and fall, the region also includes some of the nation’s largest coal producers.
Based on the value of coal mined among all producers in the U.S., West Virginia coal is the most valuable.
Annual West Virginia coal sales total more than $4 billion.
West Virginia also ranks at the top for direct contributions to federal revenues. These revenues include payroll taxes, Black Lung payments, and the environmental fees collected for Abandoned Mine Lands.
In the Mountain State, there are more than 350 coal mines, including more than 250 underground and more than100 surface mines, according to reports published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration.
West Virginia is the largest coal–producing state in the East and the country’s second largest after Wyoming.