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 how was coal found ,who discovered it

Asked by Appu(student) , on 18/8/13

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Coal deposits were discovered by colonists in Eastern North America in the 18th century. There is no clear cut evidence that at first how it was discovered. When the shortage of wood in some places forced men to look for other material to burn, they searched for coal in the banks of streams, or on the sides of the valleys and hills.coal occurred as a thick layer or 'seam' running into the hill. The burrows generally collapsed before they had reached far into the coal, and other burrows were then dug alongside. The place where a layer of coal or any other rock comes to the surface of the ground is known as its 'outcrop'. When as much coal as possible had been dug from one outcrop a search was made for another outcrop and it was often found that there were several seams one above the other, separated by layers of other kinds of rock.  


Posted by Arti Gujrati(MeritNation Expert)on 22/8/13

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History of coal mining

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Due to its abundance, coal has been mined in various parts of the world throughout history and continues to be an important economic activity today. Compared to wood fuels, coal yields a higher amount of energy per mass and could be obtained in areas where wood is not readily available. Though historically used as a means of household heating, coal is now mostly used in industry, especially in smelting and alloy production, as well as electricity generation. Large-scale coal mining developed during the Industrial Revolution, and coal provided the main source of primary energy for industry and transportation in industrial areas from the 18th century to the 1950s. Coal remains an important energy source, due to its low cost and abundance when compared to other fuels, particularly for electricity generation. [1] Coal is also mined today on a large scale by open pit methods wherever the coal strata strike the surface or are relatively shallow. Britain developed the main techniques of underground coal mining from the late 18th century onward with further progress being driven by 19th century and early 20th century progress. [1] However oil and its associated fuels began to be used as alternative from the 1860s onward. By the late 20th century coal was for the most part replaced in domestic as well as industrial and transportation usage by oil, natural gas or electricity produced from oil, gas, nuclear power or renewable energy sources.

Since 1890, coal mining has also been a political and social issue. Coal miners ' labour and trade unions became powerful in many countries in the 20th century, and often the miners were leaders of the Left or Socialist movements (as in Britain, Germany, Poland, Japan, Canada and the U.S.) [2] Since 1970, environmental issues have been increasingly important, including the health of miners, destruction of the landscape from strip mines and mountaintop removal, air pollution, and coal combustion 's contribution to global warming.


Early history

Ruins of the hypocaust under the floor of a Roman villa. The part under the exedra is covered.

Early coal extraction was small-scale, the coal lying either on the surface, or very close to it. Typical methods for extraction included drift mining and bell pits. As well as drift mines, small scale shaft mining was used. This took the form of a bell pit, the extraction working outward from a central shaft, or a technique called room and pillar in which 'rooms ' of coal were extracted with pillars left to support the roofs. Both of these techniques however left considerable amount of usable coal behind.

The earliest reference to the use of coal in metalworking is found in the geological treatise On stones (Lap. 16) by the Greek scientist Theophrastus (c. 371–287 BC):

Among the materials that are dug because they are useful, those known as coals are made of earth, and, once set on fire, they burn like charcoal. They are found in Liguria… and in Elis as one approaches Olympia by the mountain road; and they are used by those who work in metals. [3]

The earliest known use of coal in the Americas was by the Aztecs who used coal for fuel and jet (a type of lignite) for ornaments. [4]

In Roman Britain, the Romans were exploiting all major coalfields (save those of North and South Staffordshire) by the late 2nd century AD. [5] While much of its use remained local, a lively trade developed along the North Sea coast supplying coal to Yorkshire and London. [5] This also extended to the continental Rhineland, where bituminous coal was already used for the smelting of iron ore. [5] It was used in hypocausts to heat public baths, the baths in military forts, and the villas of wealthy individuals. Excavation has revealed coal stores at many forts along Hadrian 's Wall, as well as the remains of a smelting industry at forts such as Longovicium nearby.[ citation needed ]

After the Romans left Britain, in AD 410, there are no records of coal being used in the country until the end of the 12th century. Shortly after the signing of the Magna Carta, in 1215, coal began to be traded in areas of Scotland and the north-east England, where the carboniferous strata where exposed on the sea shore, and thus became known as "sea coal". This commodity, however, was not suitable for use in the type of domestic hearths then in use, and was mainly used by artisans for lime burning, metal working and smelting. As early as 1228, sea coal from the north-east was being taken to London. [6] :5 During the 13th century, the trading of coal increased across Britain and by the end of the century most of the coalfields in England, Scotland and Wales were being worked on a small scale. [6] :8 As the use of coal amongst the artisans became more widespread, it became clear that coal smoke was detrimental to health and the increasing pollution in London led to much unrest and agitation. As a result of this, a Royal proclamation was issued in 1306 prohibiting artificers of London from using sea coal in their furnaces and commanding them to return to the traditional fuels of wood and charcoal. [6] :10 During the first half of the 14th century coal began to be used for domestic heating in coal producing areas of Britain, as improvements were made in the design of domestic hearths. [6] :13 Edward III was the first king to take an interest in the coal trade of the north east, issuing a number of writs to regulate the trade and allowing the export of coal to Calais. [6] :15 The demand for coal steadily increased in Britain during the 15th century, but it was still mainly being used in the mining districts, in coastal towns or being exported to continental Europe. [6] :19 However, by the middle of the 16th century supplies of wood were beginning to fail in Britain and the use of coal as a domestic fuel rapidly expanded. [6] :22

In 1575, Sir George Bruce of Carnock of Culross, Scotland, opened the first coal mine to extract coal from a "moat pit" under the sea on the Firth of Forth. He constructed an artificial loading island into which he sank a 40 ft shaft that connected to another two shafts for drainage and improved ventilation. The technology was far in advance of any coal mining method in the late medieval period and was considered one of the industrial wonders of the age. [7]

During the 17th century a number of advances in mining techniques were made, such the use of test boring to find suitable deposits and chain pumps, driven by water wheels, to drain the collieries. [6] :57–9

Coal deposits were discovered by colonists in Eastern North America in the 18th century. [4]

Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain in the 18th century, and later spread to continental Europe, North America, and Japan, was based on the availability of coal to power steam engines. International trade expanded exponentially when coal-fed steam engines were built for the railways and steamships in the 1810-1840 Victorian era. Coal was cheaper and much more efficient than wood fuel in most steam engines. As central and Northern England contains an abundance of coal, many mines were situated in these areas as well as the South Wales coalfield and Scotland. The small-scale techniques were unsuited to the increasing demand, with extraction moving away from surface extraction to deep shaft mining as the Industrial Revolution progressed. [8]

Beginning of the 20th century

Coal miners 1910
Men leaving a UK colliery at the close of a shift
Coal miners in Hazleton PA, USA, 1905
Iowa coal mine, 1936.
Coal reserves in BTUs as of 2009
Coal Production of the World, around 1905 [9]
Country Year Short Tons
United Kingdom 1905 236,128,936
Germany (coal)   121,298,167
Germany (lignite)   52,498,507
France   35,869,497
Belgium   21,775,280
Austria (coal)   12,585,263
Austria (lignite)   22,692,076
Hungary (coal) 1904 1,031,501
Hungary (lignite)   5,447,283
Spain 1905 3,202,911
Russia 1904 19,318,000
Netherlands   466,997
Bosnia (lignite)   540,237
Romania   110,000
Serbia 1904 183,204
Italy (coal and lignite) 1905 412,916
Sweden   322,384
Greece (lignite) 1904 466,997
India 1905 8,417,739
Japan 1903 10,088,845
Sumatra 1904 207,280
Transvaal 1904 2,409,033
Natal 1905 1,129,407
Cape Colony 1904 154,272
United States 1905 350,821,000
Canada 1904 7,509,860
Mexico   700,000
Peru 1905 72,665
New South Wales 1905 6,632,138
Queensland   529,326
Victoria   153,135
Western Australia   127,364
Tasmania   51,993
New Zealand   1,585,756

United Kingdom

British coalfields in the nineteenth century.

Pre 1900

Although some deep mining took place as early as the late Tudor period (in the North East, and along the Firth of Forth coast) [10] [11] deep shaft mining in the UK began to develop extensively in the late 18th century, with rapid expansion throughout the 19th century and early 20th century when the industry peaked. The location of the coalfields helped to make the prosperity of Lancashire, of Yorkshire, and of South Wales; the Yorkshire pits which supplied Sheffield were only about 300 feet deep. Northumberland and Durham were the leading coal producers and they were the sites of the first deep pits. In much of Britain coal was worked from drift mines, or scraped off when it outcropped on the surface. Small groups of part-time miners used shovels and primitive equipment.

Scottish miners had been bonded to their "maisters" by a 1606 Act "Anent Coalyers and Salters". A Colliers and Salters (Scotland) Act 1775, recognised this to be "a state of slavery and bondage" and formally abolished it; this was made effective by a further Colliers (Scotland) Act 1799. [12] [13]

Before 1800 a great deal of coal was left in places as extraction was still primitive. As a result in the deep Tyneside pits (300 to 1,000 ft deep) only about 40 percent of the coal could be extracted. The use of wooden pit props to support the roof was an innovation first introduced about 1800. The critical factor was circulation of air and control of dangerous explosive gases. At first fires were burned to create air currents and circulate air, but replaced by fans driven by steam engines. Protection for miners came with the invention of the Davy lamp and Geordie lamp, where any firedamp (or methane) burnt harmlessly within the lamp. It was achieved by restricting the ingress of air with either metal gauze or fine tubes, but the illumination from such lamps was very poor. Great efforts were made to develop better safe lamps, such as the Mueseler produced in the Belgian pits near Liège.

Coal was so abundant in Britain that the supply could be stepped up to meet the rapidly rising demand. About 1770-1780 the annual output of coal was some 6¼ million long tons (or about the output of a week and a half in the 20th century). After 1790 output soared, reaching 16 million long tons by 1815 at the height of the Napoleonic War. The miners, less menaced by imported labour or machines than were the cotton mill workers, had begun to form trade unions and fight their grim battle for wages against the coal owners and royalty-lessees. [14]


Coal mining passed into Government control in 1947, although coal had been a political issue since the early part of the 20th century. The need to maintain coal supplies (a primary energy source) had figured in both world wars. [15] As well as energy supply, coal in the UK became a very political issue, due to conditions under which colliers worked and the way they were treated by colliery owners. Much of the 'old Left ' of British politics can trace its origins to coal-mining areas, with the main labour union being the Miners ' Federation of Great Britain, founded in 1888. The MFGB claimed 600,000 members in 1908. (The MFGB later became the more centralised National Union of Mineworkers).

Although other factors were involved, one cause of the UK General Strike of 1926 was concerns colliers had over very dangerous working conditions, reduced pay and longer shifts.

Technological development throughout the 19th and 20th centuries helped both to improve the safety of colliers and the productive capacity of collieries they worked. In the late 20th century, improved integration of coal extraction with bulk industries such as electrical generation helped coal maintain its position despite the emergence of alternative energies supplies such as oil, natural gas and, from the late 1950s, nuclear power used for electricity. More recently coal has faced competition from renewable energy sources and bio-fuels.

After World War II, the coal industry in Britain was nationalised, and remained in public ownership until the 1980s and the decline of the industry after the UK miners ' strike (1984-1985). The 1980s and 1990s saw much change in the UK coal industry, with the industry contracting, in some areas quite drastically. Many pits were considered uneconomic [16] to work at then current wage rates compared to cheap North Sea oil and gas, and in comparison to subsidy levels in Europe. The Miners ' Strike of 1984 failed to stop the Conservative government 's plans under Margaret Thatcher to shrink the industry. The National Coal Board (by then British Coal), was privatised by selling off a large number of pits to private concerns through the mid 1990s, and the mining industry disappeared almost completely. [17]

In January 2008, the South Wales Valleys last deep pit mine, Tower Colliery in Hirwaun, Rhondda Cynon Taff closed with the loss of 120 jobs. The coal was exhausted. [18]

However, coal is still mined extensively at a number of deep pits in the Midlands and the North, and is extracted at several very large opencast pits in South Wales and elsewhere. There are proposals to re-open several deep pits with Russian capital[ citation needed ], owing to the soaring price of the commodity.

United States

Anthracite (or "hard" coal), clean and smokeless, became the preferred fuel in cities, replacing wood by about 1850. Bituminous (or "soft coal") mining came later. In the mid-century Pittsburgh was the principal market. After 1850 soft coal, which is cheaper but dirtier, came into demand for railway locomotives and stationary steam engines, and was used to make coke for steel after 1870. [19]

Total coal output soared until 1918; before 1890, it doubled every ten years, going from 8.4 million short tons in 1850 to 40 million in 1870, 270 million in 1900, and peaking at 680 million short tons in 1918. New soft coal fields opened in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, as well as West Virginia, Kentucky and Alabama. The Great Depression of the 1930s lowered the demand to 360 million short tons in 1932. [20]

Changing shifts at the mine portal in the afternoon, Floyd County, Kentucky, 1946

Under John L. Lewis, the United Mine Workers (UMW) became the dominant force in the coal fields in the 1930s and 1940s, producing high wages and benefits. [21] In 1914 at the peak there were 180,000 anthracite miners; by 1970 only 6,000 remained. At the same time steam engines were phased out in railways and factories, and bituminous was used primarily for the generation of electricity. Employment in bituminous peaked at 705,000 men in 1923, falling to 140,000 by 1970 and 70,000 in 2003. UMW membership among active miners fell from 160,000 in 1980 to only 16,000 in 2005, as coal mining became more mechanized and non-union miners predominated in the new coal fields.

In the 1960s a series of mergers saw coal production shift from small, independent coal companies to large, more diversified firms. Several oil companies and electricity producers acquired coal companies or leased Federal coal reserves in the west of the United States. Concerns that competition in the coal industry could decline as a result of these changes were heightened by a sharp rise in coal prices in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. Coal prices fell in the 1980s, partly in response to oil price movements, but primarily in response to the large increase in supply worldwide which was brought about by the earlier price surge. During this period, the industry in the U.S. was characterized by a move towards low-sulfur coal. [22]

In 2008, competition was intense in the US coal mining industry with some U.S. mines approaching the end of their useful life (mine closure). Other coal-producing countries also stepped up production to win a share of traditional US export markets.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the coal mining industry in the US in 2008 consisted of firms that mine bituminous coal, anthracite (both are types of black coal) and lignite (brown coal). Mining may be undertaken in a number of ways, including: underground mining (also known as bord and pillar mining), auger mining (where coal is extracted using a horizontal drilling technique), strip mining, culm bank (coal refuse pile) mining, and other surface mining. Census also classifies coal mining firms as those that also develop coal mine sites and prepare the coal for sale by washing, screening and sizing it. [23]

West Virginia

Photo of coal miners in West Virginia, 1908

In 1883, thousands of European immigrants and a large number of African Americans migrated to southern West Virginia to work in coal mines. These coal miners worked in company mines with company tools and equipment, which they were required to le