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Coal is a naturally occurring, combustible sedimentary rock that can be used to produce energy.
Coal is found underground in rock strata, referred to as coal seams. Coal can be mined from these seams and used to generate electricity.
Coal is one of the primary sources of electricity generation in the world today. Power plants make use of coal to generate electricity through combustion. Pulverized coal is combusted at high temperatures to produce steam. This steam is then used to rotate a turbine, which in turn generates electricity. It is found deep underground in coal reserves. This coal can be obtained by the process of mining, which involves breaking coal from coal seams and transporting it to the surface.
Coal mining dates back thousands of years, with a vast number of coal mines found in the Roman Empire, ancient China, and other early civilizations. However, coal mining truly took off in the 19th century during the Industrial revolution. The earliest use of coal that has been documented was by the Aztec civilization. They used coal for fuel.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, coal mining used to be the major source of power. It was used to generate electricity and heat and was also used to power steam engines. It was the main energy source for all industrial needs and transportation till the '50s.
In the early history of coal mining, it was a small-scale activity. The coal used to be very close to the surface and did not require the level of digging it does today. The most common methods of coal extraction were bell pits, drift mining, and shaft mining. This involved a bell pit, and extraction took place outward from a central shaft—however, these early coal extraction methods left behind a significant amount of coal.
In the second century AD, when Britain was under the rule of the Roman Empire, the coal trade flourished. The Romans developed a trade along the coast of the North Sea and supplied coal to London. Coal was used to produce heat energy and was used to heat public baths and the mansions of the wealthy. Coal stores were found along Hadrian's Wall and Longovicium.
In the 13th Century, coal trading began to flourish all across Britain. By the end of the 13th century, almost all the coalfields in Wales, Scotland, and England had seen small-scale coal mining. However, soon, it became widespread news that coal smoke has a drastic effect on a person's health. It also caused a sudden increase in pollution in London. Due to this, in 1306, artificers in London were prohibited from using coal in their furnaces.
During the 14th Century, coal was used for heating in Britain. King Edward III issued regulations that oversaw the trade and export of coal to France. By the 15th century, the demand for coal began to increase but was restricted to mining towns and for export. However, during the 16th century, coal began to be used as domestic fuel throughout Britain. In the 17th century, new coal mining techniques such as the use of test boring, chain pumps, and water wheels were developed.
The Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century and saw the transition from hand to machine. It began in Britain and slowly spread to Japan, Europe, and America. The Industrial Revolution was heavily dependent upon coal-powered steam engines. Due to the development of coal-powered steam engines, ships, and railways, trade increased exponentially during the Victorian period. Coal was a much cheaper source of fuel than wood and was abundant in Northern England. Many mines were also functioning in Scotland and South Wales. As demand increased during the Industrial Revolution, mining coal transitioned from surface extraction to deep shaft mining.
Deep shaft mining developed rapidly in the 19th century and early 20th century. Coalfields existed across Lancashire, Yorkshire, and South Wales, bringing economic prosperity to these areas. Northumberland and Durham were the top coal producers and had the very first deep mines.
In the United States, hard coal, which was clean and smokeless, was preferred as fuel before the 1850s. Soft coal mining came about in the 1850s to power locomotives and steam engines. Soft coal was also used to make coke for steel in the 1870s. The total coal output in the United States peaked in 1918. Following this, coal fields opened in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Alabama, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
In the '30s, the United Mine Workers corporation became the major coal miners association and producer of coal. By 1970, steam engines were slowly phased out, and coal began to be used to generate electricity.
In the early history of mining coal, coal miners used to obtain coal by wedging it or breaking it loose with a pick. Even after the introduction of explosives to break the coal from the seam, hand tools were still required to obtain the coal. However, the development of electricity and steam power allowed for the transition from using hand tools to electrical equipment.
In the very first mines, coal would be collected in large baskets that would be carried by miners on their backs or would be loaded on wooden sleds and pushed to the surface. Animals like mules, horses, and goats were also often used. However, in the 20th century, the handloading of coal was made obsolete. In 1888, a machine known as the Stanley Header was developed in England and tested in the United States. The Stanley Header was a coal-loading machine. In 1914, the Joy Machine was introduced. It employed the gathering arm principle and was a new and improved coal loading machine. In 1938, with the widespread development of electricity, electric shuttle cars were used to carry coal from the loading machines. By the '60s, conveyor belts completely replaced these shuttle cars.
In 1868, the very first revolving wheel cutter to break coal loose from the steam was introduced in England. It was a steam-powered cutting tool that derived power from steam. Soon after, this tool was improved, and compressed air replaced steam as the power source. This slowly led to the development of electric power tools. In 1891, the longwall cutter was developed. It was an electrified cutter that could begin cutting at one end of a vertical cross-section of a coal seam and continuously cut its way to the other end.
As coal mines became deeper, the older, conventional methods of coal mining became more dangerous and expensive. In the '40s, machines began to replace the basic mining techniques that were being used. The late '40s saw the introduction of machines known as 'continuous miners.' These continuous miners would rip the coal seam and transfer the coal to the haulage system.
In 1952, a device known as the shearer was introduced in Britain. The shearer was a simple continuous machine that consisted of disks fit with picks and mounted on a shaft perpendicular to the coal seam. The shearer would be pulled along the coal face atop a conveyor belt, and the revolving disks would cut slices from the coal face. Any coal that would fall between the coal face and conveyor in the coal mine would be cleaned up by the machine.
When did coal mining start?
The earliest forms of coal mining can be traced back thousands of years ago to the Roman Empire and ancient China. The first case of mining coal from surface mines was in the 1600s. However, commercial mining only began in the 1740s.
What are some important facts about coal?
Coal is mainly used as a fuel to generate electricity and heat. In a power plant, coal dust is combusted at high temperatures, producing high-pressure steam. This steam is then used to turn a turbine, which in turn generates electricity. As energy use began to increase across the world, there was a need for a strong source of energy. Coal proved to be more efficient than other materials such as wood.
How hard is coal mining?
The mining of coal is considered to be dangerous for miners. Working in a coal mine has the risk of toxic gas exposure, being crushed or drowned, fires, and explosions.
How much coal is mined each year?
In the 2021-2022 financial year, an estimated 43.3 million tonnes (39.2 million metric tons) of coking coal and 117.55 million tons (106.63 million metric tons) of non-coking coal was mined.
What is underground coal mining?
Underground coal mining is the process in which coal is mined by tunneling deep into the earth until the coal beds are reached. Following this, these coal beds are mined with cutting machines, and the mined coal is then transported to the surface.
How many coal mining jobs have trump created?
Former president of the United States, Donald Trump, opened 75 new power plants at 145 coal-burning units.
What is the cost of coal mining?
As of 2020, the average price of delivering coal to the electric power sector was $36.14 per short ton.
What is coal mining waste?
Mining waste is the leftover material from coal mining. It is also referred to as coal waste, slag, or coal refuse.
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