Beginning in the mid-1700’s, coal mining in Pennsylvania fueled the Industrial Revolution in the United States beginning with the Colonial Iron Industry followed by Andrew Carnegie’s steel mills in the 1800’s, and eventually the electric power plants of modern times. Two kinds of coal are mined in Pennsylvania: anthracite (hard coal) and bituminous (softer coal).
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates the demonstrated US coal reserve base at 496 billion tons distributed geographically among 31 states; with 27 billion tons in Pennsylvania. At current consumption levels, coal supplies will be available for at least the next 250 years. In fact, on an energy equivalent basis, the 5,441 quadrillion BTUs of US coal surpasses the 4,446 quadrillion BTUs of Middle East oil.
Pennsylvania is the fourth leading coal producing state, mining 68 million tons in 2008. Almost 80 percent of this output came from 39 underground mines and the remainder from 377 surface mining and reprocessing sites.
The Pennsylvania mining industry constitutes a major source of employment and tax revenue. In 2008, it created 49,100 direct and indirect jobs with a total payroll in excess of $2.2 billion. Taxes on these wages netted over $700 million to the coffers of federal, state and local governments.