Kentucky Coal Facts

Kentucky Coal Facts

  • Kentucky was the third largest coal-producing State in 2011; output of nearly 108 million short tons accounted for 10 percent of total U.S. coal production.
  • Ninety-three percent of Kentucky's net electricity generation in 2011 was generated from coal.
  • Most of Kentucky's natural gas comes from the Big Sandy field located in the eastern part of the State; Big Sandy is the largest natural gas field in the Appalachian Basin.
  • Two of Kentucky’s electric power plants, Paradise and Ghent, are included on the 2010 list of the largest 100 U.S. power plants by capacity.
  • In 2011, Kentucky had two oil refineries with a combined operating capacity of 218 thousand barrels per day.

Source:  EIA.Gov

What is Coal?

  • Coal is a combustible, mostly black sedimentary rock composed mostly of carbon and hydrocarbons. It is the most abundant fossil fuel produced in the US.
  • There are four types of coal:
    1. lignite
    2. subbituminous
    3. bituminous
    4. anthracite
  • Coal value is determined by the amount of the carbon it contains.
  • Coal has been used as an energy source for hundreds of years and was part of international trade as long ago as the Roman Empire.
  • Coal takes one million years to create.
  • Coal mining uses two methods: underground and surface mining. Surface mining is used more because it is a less expensive method.

The Power of Coal

  • Kentucky coal invests hundreds of millions of dollars in coal mine land restoration, or reclamation, projects.
  • Coal supplies half the electricity consumed by Americans.  96% of our electricity here in Kentucky.
  • Kentucky is the third largest coal-producing state in the country.
  • Coal provided the energy which fueled the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century and also launched the electric era in the 20th Century.
  • A pound of coal supplies enough electricity to power ten 100-watt light bulbs for about an hour.
  • The world uses over 5 billion tons of coal every year.
  • Western Kentucky produced almost 10.3 million tons of coal in the second quarter of 2013 which was 50.2 percent of total production and 1 percent more than Eastern Kentucky.  86% from underground mines and 14% from surface mines. Read the full report  (Click Here)

The Value of Coal

  • Coal mining provides jobs for the long-term.
  • Mining in Kentucky supports more than 84,000 jobs, paying hundreds of millions of dollars in annual wages.
  • While Kentucky’s unemployment rate rose to 10.9 percent in June, coal mining has helped add more than 2,000 jobs to the state economy since 2008 (http://wowktv.com/story.cfm?func=viewstory&storyid=63008).
  • Coal mining jobs fuel other jobs.
    • For every coal mining job, an additional 3.5 jobs are created elsewhere in the economy.
  • The average wage for a coal worker in Kentucky is about $61,000, roughly 70 percent more than the average wage for jobs in other industries in the state.
  • Personal income and payroll taxes from Kentucky mining jobs amounted to nearly $1.3 billion in tax revenue in 2007 alone9 – and millions more in property and other taxes – which in turn is invested into vital government services, such as K-12 education.
  • There is enough coal in the world to meet today’s energy needs for the next 300 years.
  • The value of coal produced in the US every year is nearly $20 billion.
  • Coal directly creates more than 90,000 jobs in the US, and indirectly creates nearly 1 million.
  • Each person in the US uses 3.8 tons of coal every year.

What is Coal Used For?

  • The first documented use of coal in the state of Kentucky was in 1750 by Dr. Thomas Walker.
  • Coal is mainly used for generating electricity. More than 90 percent of US coal is used for electricity.
  • Thousands of different products have coal or coal by-products as components such as soap, aspirins, solvents, dyes, plastics and fibers such as rayon and nylon.
  • Coal is also an essential ingredient in the production of specialist products. Activated carbon is used in filters for water and air purification and in kidney dialysis machines. Carbon fiber is an extremely strong but light weight reinforcement material that is used in construction, mountain bikes and tennis rackets. Silicon metal is used to produce silicones and salines, which are in turn used to make lubricants, water repellents, resins, cosmetics, hair shampoos and toothpastes.

Coal in Kentucky

  • Coal is the official state mineral of Kentucky.
  • The state of Kentucky produced 112.9 million tons of coal in 2009.

Surface Mining

  • Surface mining operations provide enough energy to power more than 25 million American homes.10 In Kentucky, surface mining techniques yield about half of the state’s coal.
  • Before mining even begins, companies must submit – and both the government and the landowner must approve – a comprehensive land restoration and reclamation plan.  Some areas are reforested or utilized for wildlife habitat; other areas are commercially developed to improve the quality of life for residents. 
    For example:
    • Working with the state government and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, mining companies in eastern Kentucky reintroduced 1,500 elk to properly reclaimed mines over a five-year period.  The elk herd now numbers more than 10,000 animals.
    • The American chestnut tree was largely eliminated from eastern forest of the United States several decades ago by a blight that destroyed almost the entire species.  Through a partnership with the American Chestnut Foundation (TACF), mining companies planted a blight-resistant version of the chestnut across 1.2 million acres in Kentucky.

Coal in the United States

  • Coal was discovered in 1701 in the US in the state of Virginia. 1748 was the date of the first recorded US coal production.
  • Montana is the state with the most coal reserves, although Wyoming produces more. The state of Texas is the top state that uses the most coal.
  • Wyoming produces the most coal in the US. West Virginia is the second-leading prouder, and Kentucky is third.
  • Coal is mainly found in three large regions of the US: The Appalachian Coal Region, the Interior Coal Region, and the Western Coal Region.
  • More than one-third of the coal produced in the US come from the Appalachian Coal Region. West Virginia is the largest coal-producing state in this region.
  • Texas is the largest coal producer in the Interior Coal Region.
  • Over half of the coal produced in the US comes from the Western Coal Region. Some of the largest coal mines in the world are in this region. Wyoming is the largest coal producer in the Western Coal Region.
  • The Black Thunder Mine and North Antelope Rochelle Mines in Wyoming produce almost as much coal as the state of West Virginia.
  • Coal is the official state rock of Utah.

Information provided by:

* The National Mining Association compiles and analyzes data from a variety of official sources, including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Energy Energy Information Administration (EIA), and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), among other U.S. and international agencies.


Contact Us

Western Kentucky Coal Association

PO Box 65
1822 North Main Street
Madisonville Kentucky  42431

Phone:  270-825-8311

Email:  info@westernkentuckycoal.com