Coal is a mineral mined in east Tennessee. While not one of the largest coal producing states in the United States, Tennessee still has a rich history of coal mining. The industry still has a presence in the region today. Even though production does not match larger coal producing states, the coal industry brings meaningful revenue to the state of Tennessee. This paper examines the industry, coal mining practices within the state and its financial impact.
What is Coal?
With a composition of carbon along with hydrogen and oxygen, coal is a sedimentary rock that is combustible. “It is formed from vegetation, which has been consolidated between other rock strata and altered by the combined effects of pressure and heat over millions of years to form coal seams” (WCA, 2014). As a fossil fuel, coal combustion provides the heat necessary for the production of electricity but also has uses in other industries.
The consolidated vegetation that eventually formed coal accumulated in swamps and peat bogs. Three hundred sixty million to two hundred ninety million years ago during the first coal age, otherwise known as the Carboniferous Period, coal formation took place. Tectonic movements of the Earth’s crust is responsible for burying the swamps and peat bogs that eventually, under high temperatures and pressure, caused the physical and chemical changes that transformed the organic material into coal.
Types of Coal
Like the general term automobiles and the types of automobiles like sedans, coupes and station wagons, coal, the general term, has four different types. They are anthracite, bituminous, subbituminous, and lignite. Anthracite is a hard coal with a high luster. Its uses include stoves, furnaces or for the generation of steam based electricity.
“Bituminous coal or black coal is a relatively soft coal containing a tar like substance called bitumen. It is of higher quality than lignite coal but of poorer quality than anthracite coal” (Princeton, n.d.). Its uses include steam based electric power generation as well as in the production of iron and steel.
Subbituminous coal has the appearance that includes a range of color. It can be bright black or vary all the way to a dull dark brown color. Its consistency can vary just as widely. Some is hard and strong while other subbituminous coal is soft and crumbly. It has uses in industrial applications but its primary use is in the generation of steam-based electricity.
Finally, lignite, “sometimes called brown coal, lignite is the lowest quality and most crumbly coal. This softer and geologically younger coal sits relatively close to the earth’s surface” (Sunshine, 2014). Lignite’s uses include the production of synthetic natural gas, fertilizer and steam based electricity production.
Coal Fields of East Tennessee
Coal found in east Tennessee is bituminous coal found in nine coalfields in east Tennessee. “All of the coal mined in Tennessee comes from the...