Lehigh Anthracite Coal Continues the Tradition

Coal is a fossil fuel formed through heat, pressure and time from the remains of plants that lived and died millions of years ago. Coal is a plentiful resource in the United States, and the country has the largest recoverable reserves of coal in the world, enough to last 200 years at current production levels. The owners of some historic coal mining sites, like the 8,000-acre Lehigh Anthracite coal mine in Pennsylvania, are investing in new mining plans, equipment and on-site infrastructure to maintain its position as a premiere provider of anthracite coal.  

History of Coal Mining in America

Long before settlers arrived in the New World, Native Americans were using coal. For example, the Hopi used it to bake clay pottery. While European settlers discovered the use of coal in the 1600s, it was not until the 1800s that it became a major source of energy. 

The use of anthracite or hard coal replaced wood as a fuel by the 1850s, especially in cities, because this coal burned cleanly with little ash and smoke. Many rail companies began as shortline mining railroads, moving coal to population centers. By 1840 hard coal production had passed one million tons. Bituminous or soft coal also became popular by 1850. Even though it was dirtier, it was cheaper and quickly found use as fuel for locomotives and steam engines, and it was also used to make steel.

Total coal output continued to rise dramatically over the years, with new fields being opened in a number of states. Thousands of workers migrated to these states to work the coal mines. During peak anthracite production in 1914, there were some 180,000 miners, and over 700,000 workers in bituminous mines in 1923. Coal production remains a major American industry in spite of a reduction in the work force and increased competition from other sources of energy. 

Uses of Coal

Coal is an important source of energy for producing electricity, steel and cement. It is also used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and paper. Byproducts of coal are incorporated into thousands of different items, such as:       

• Naphthalene, creosote, benzene, and other chemicals

• Agricultural fertilizers

• Soap

• Aspirin

• Plastics and fibers

• Carbon fiber

• Activated carbon

• Silicones used to make numerous products including hair shampoos and toothpaste 

Anthracite Production Today

While some coal mining sites are reaching the end of productive life, others such as the Lehigh Anthracite coal mine, are retooling and redesigning operations to meet current markets and demands. Their newly re-engineered operation is able to fill large, high quality anthracite orders that are processed, washed, and tested on site. There is a new rail load out facility that can rapidly transfer coal orders to delivery by rail, trucks or ship to almost anywhere in the world.

Because test results are obtained on site, every order is accompanied by a report. The company has also installed systems to deliver various standard or even custom-sized coal to suit specific applications. The Lehigh Anthracite coal mine is an example of the dedication of the American coal industry to meet today’s changing demands for energy.


Article written by Connor Johnson

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