Locating Coal Deposits: A How To Guide
Coal appears similar to black rock, but it’s actually compressed plant matter. Over a long period of time, decayed plant matter becomes compressed with sediment and clay. Thousands of years later, once unearthed, this compressed matter becomes rock hard. Mostly comprised of carbon elements, coal contains stored solar energy.
Most popular in 19th and 20th centuries, coal usage has declined in favor of more natural resources, such as oil, nuclear energy and natural gas. When oil prices increase, more people turn to coal, as it becomes a more affordable energy source.
Successful coal mining requires experienced prospecting, which includes the following steps:
- Geological survey maps of local areas help determine where prospectors can look for coal. Most coal concentrations in the U.S. are located in West Virginia, Wyoming, Kentucky, Texas and Pennsylvania.
- Surveys highlight the presence of shale and clay, which are indicators of coal deposits.
- Researching land history is a vital component to locating profitable coal deposits. The most successful areas were once swamplands, which contained peat. Over time, peat turns into lignite, known as the simplest form of coal, which then can later develop into more desirable forms of coal.
- When selecting an area for coal mining, prospectors must visit the land and comb the surface for seams. If seams exist below the surface, look for signs of clinkers. A clinker is what remains after coal burns. Prairie fires, lighting strikes and other natural fire-related hazards may ignite coal deposits near the service, leaving signs of clinkers. This may confirm the presence of coal seams underground. Additionally, analyze the land for signs of shale and clay.
Coal geologists specialize in analyzing soil samples, helping to determine the presence of coal deposits. These trained specialists can also make accurate predictions about the amount of available coal in deposits. They also offer expert assistance with obtaining mineral rights, writing formal resources reports and explaining to government officials the intended use of such deposits.
Coal is used for traditional applications, such as electric plants, and is also being explored for clean-burning technology. As an abundant source of energy, coal is appealing, but many past experiences have caused misconceptions about the use of coal. Coal is commonly believed to be a high pollutant and responsible for emission concerns. However, coal can be used in a safe and effective manner that is beneficial for society.
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