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Coal, a product of decay from plants older than 350 million years, is an integral part of energy production in the United States. Coal provides 56.9% of electricity generation in the United States.[1] With many different types of coal found in different states, the U.S. remains second to Russia in the number of estimated worldwide coal reserves.[2] Between the years of 1885-1950, coal was the most important fuel. One half ton of coal produced as much energy as two tons of wood and at half the cost.[3] Even today, there is, on a Btu basis, about one hundred times as much energy in the coal reserves of the United States as there is in either the oil or natural gas reserves.[4] But coal is also a rather variable energy substance as the different ranks, or measure of degree of change from the peat stage, affects the heating value and sulfur content of the coal.

From low rank to high rank, the different types of coal are ordered as follows: lignite, subbituminous, bituminous, and anthracite. Low rank coal tends to have a smoky flame and easy ignition whereas high rank coal is known for its clean flame and difficult ignition.[5] All of these types of coals can be found in three major United States regions known as The Appalachian Basin, The Illinois Basin, and the northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountain region.[6]

To recover coal from these significantly large coal reserves, workers use a process called strip mining. By using this process, strip miners can recover all the coal in a DEPOSIT, and each worker achieves very high productivity, recovering 30-40 tons per worker per day. Sixty percent of coal in the United States comes from strip mining. [7] While strip mining was at one time a dangerous career choice, the coal mining industry is now recognized as one of the safest, with a lower rate of injuries and illnesses per 100 employees than the…...

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