Top Ten States with the Largest Coal Reserves as of January 1, 1997

State Reserves (Million Short Tons)

Montana 75,309.7

Wyoming 44,813.4

Illinois 38,205.6

West Virginia 19,322.0

Kentucky 15,976.6

Pennsylvania 12,397.3

Ohio 11,671.9

Colorado 10,044.9

Texas 9953.9

North Dakota 7167.2

Total 244, 862.5

Percentage of U.S. Total 89.5%

(4) Northern Great Plains Province; (5) Rocky Mountain Province; (6) Pacific Coast Province; and (7) Alaskan Province. The provinces are further subdivided into regions, fields, and districts. Carboniferous coal deposits in the eastern United States occur in a band of coal-bearing sediments that include the Appalachian and Illinois basins. Coal deposits in the western United States range from Upper Jurassic to Tertiary in age.

The Eastern Province includes the anthracite regions of Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, the Atlantic Coast region of middle Virginia and North Carolina, and the vast Appalachian basin, which extends from Pennsylvania through eastern Ohio, eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, western Virginia, Tennessee, and into Alabama. The Eastern Province is about 900 miles long and 200 miles wide at its broadest point [7]. This province also contains the greatest reserves of anthracite in the United States, with more than 760 million short tons in eastern Pennsylvania.

The Appalachian basin contains the largest deposits of bituminous coal in the United States. In the northern region of the Appalachian basin, the coal rank ranges from high-volatile bituminous coal in the west to low-volatile bituminous coal in the east. In the central region of the basin, the coal includes low- to high-volatile bituminous rank. In the southern region, the coals are mainly of high-volatile bituminous rank with some medium-and low-volatile bituminous coals [5]. Coals are used for steam production, electricity generation, and metallurgical coke production. These coals have high heating values, low- to medium-ash contents (up to 20%), and variable sulfur contents, with much of the coal containing 2 to 4% sulfur.

The Interior Province is subdivided into three regions: the Northern region, consisting of Michigan; the Eastern region or Illinois basin, consisting of Illinois, southern Indiana, and western Kentucky; and the Western region, consisting of Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma,

Arkansas, and western Texas. The Eastern region is the most important region of this province as it has vast reserves contained in Illinois (i.e., more than 38,000 million short tons) and western Kentucky (nearly 7000 million short tons of the approximately 16,000 million short tons listed in Table 1-5). The coal in the Interior Province is mainly bituminous in rank and tends to be lower in rank and higher in sulfur than the Eastern Province bituminous coals. Coals are used for steam production, electricity generation, and metallurgical coke production. Coal composition in this province is quite variable, with coals from the Illinois basin being noted for having a high sulfur content (3-7%). The ash content is variable.

The Gulf Province consists of the Mississippi region in the east and the Texas region in the west. The coals in this province, which extends from Alabama through Mississippi, Louisiana, and into Texas, are lignitic in rank and are the lowest rank coals in the United States, having moisture contents up to 40%.

The Northern Great Plains Province contains the large lignite deposits of North Dakota, South Dakota, and eastern Montana, along with the sub-bituminous fields of northern and eastern Montana and northern Wyoming. These lignite deposits are contained in the Fort Union Region and are the largest lignite deposits in the world [7]. The coals are used primarily as power station fuels. The lignite has a high-moisture (38%), low-ash (6%), and medium-sulfur (<1%) content and a heating value of approximately 6800 Btu/lb. The Northern Great Plains Province also contains extensive subbituminous coal reserves from the Powder River basin [18]. Wyoming and Montana are the states with the largest recoverable coal reserves in the United States. Wyoming's coal reserves are split between the Northern Great Plains Province and the Rocky Mountain Province. The Powder River basin coals are used primarily as power station fuels and average about 1% sulfur with generally low ash content (3-10%).

The Rocky Mountain Province includes the coalfields of the mountainous districts of Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. The coals range in rank from lignite through anthracite in this province. The most important Rocky Mountain Province coals are the coals from Wyoming, primarily those from the Green River, Hanna, and Hanna Fork coalfields. These coals are subbituminous in rank, typically contain low sulfur, and are used in power generation stations.

The Pacific Coast Province is limited to small deposits in Washington, Oregon, and California. The coals range in rank from lignite to anthracite. The fields are small and scattered and are not being utilized to any great extent.

The Alaskan Province contains coal in several regions [11]. These coals vary in rank from lignite to bituminous with a small amount of anthracite. The total reserves are estimated to be 15% bituminous coal and 85% sub-bituminous coal and lignite; however, extensive mining is not performed due to the low population density and pristine wilderness environment.

Only fields close to main lines of transportation have been developed. The coals are used primarily as power station fuels.

Canada Canada has about 7300 million short tons of recoverable coal ranging in rank from anthracite to lignite. The coal deposits formed in late Jurassic, Cretaceous, and early Tertiary times. Most of the recoverable reserves are in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, which is an extension of the Great Plains province coals from the United States. Coals from western Canada tend to be low in sulfur; those from Alberta and Saskatchewan are used as power station fuels, while British Columbia metallurgical coal is exported to the Far East. Coals from eastern Canada, primarily the Cape Breton Island coalfield in Nova Scotia, are the most important in the Atlantic region. The coals are of high-volatile bituminous rank and vary from medium to high sulfur. Coal production in Nova Scotia is a small percentage of the national output and is expected to decline further [5].

Eastern Europe and the States of the Former Soviet Union Eastern Europe and the FSU contain extensive recoverable coal reserves totaling some 290,000 million short tons, or 27% of the world's total. Four of the countries listed in Table 1-4 contain over 90% of the recoverable reserves for this region: Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Poland.

Russia Russia has extensive coal reserves, more than 173,000 million short tons (~16% of the world total), of which 119,000 million short tons are subbituminous and lignitic in rank. The coal resources in eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East remain largely unused because of their remoteness and lack of infrastructure [5]. Russia's main coal basins contain coals ranging from Carboniferous to Jurassic in age. Most hard coal reserves are in numerous coalfields in European and central Asian Russia, particularly in the Kuznetsk and Pechora basins and the Russian sector of the Dontesk basin. The Kansk-Achinsk basin in eastern Siberia is the country's main source of subbituminous coal. The Moscow basin contains significant lignite reserves but production has virtually stopped [5].

The Kuznetsk basin, which is located to the east of Novosibirsk, contains coals exhibiting a wide range in quality and rank from brown coal to semi-anthracite. The ash content of the coal is variable, and the sulfur content is generally low. High-quality coals with low moisture, ash, and sulfur contents are used for coking and steam coal production. This basin is now the largest single producer in Russia providing coking and steam coal.

The Pechora basin is located in the extreme northeast of European Russia. The coal rank in the basin increases from brown coal in the west to bituminous coal and anthracite in the east. Ash content varies considerably from 9 to 43%, while sulfur content, for the most part, does not exceed 1.5%. This basin is the principal supplier of coking coal.

The Dontesk basin is located in eastern Russia and western Ukraine and contains the entire range of coal rank from brown coal to anthracite, which increases in quantity toward the basin's central and eastern sections. These coals tend to have ash contents of 15 to 20% and sulfur contents of 2 to 4% and are used as coking and steam coals.

The Kansk-Achinsk basin, located adjacent to the east side of the Kuznetsk basin, contains brown coals that are described as lignites or subbituminous coals; however, their heating value is higher than that of most lignites. These coals have low to medium ash contents (6-20%) and low sulfur contents (<1%), which make them attractive for power station fuels.

Ukraine The Ukraine has significant coal reserves totaling approximately 37,600 million short tons, which is nearly evenly split between hard coal (bituminous and anthracite) and brown coal as shown in Table 1-4 [2]. Most of the coal resources are found in two coal basins: the Donetsk and Dneiper basins. The Donetsk basin, which is Carboniferous in age, is located in the east (and crosses over into Russia) and contains most of the country's hard coal resources. These coals contain medium ash (15-20%) and medium to high sulfur (2-4%) contents. These coals are used for steam production, power station fuels, and metallurgical applications. The Dneiper basin is adjacent to the eastern edge of the Donetsk basin and stretches across much of central Ukraine. This basin contains Ukraine's brown coal reserves and currently is of relatively minor importance [5].

Kazakhstan Kazakhstan contains similar total recoverable coal reserves as the Ukraine: approximately 37,500 million short tons; however, unlike the Ukraine, most of Kazakhstan's reserves are hard coals that total more than 34,000 million short tons. The coal deposits are late Carboniferous and Jurassic in age and are located mainly in the Karaganda and Ekibas-tuz basins, which produce hard coal. The coal deposits of these basins lie along the southern edge of the Siberian platform [5]. In the Karaganda basin, coking and steam coals are produced that have sulfur contents ranging from 1.5 to 2.5% and high ash content (20 to 35%). Coals from the Ekibastuz basin typically have high ash (39% on average) and low sulfur (<1%) contents and are predominantly used for thermal power generation.

Poland Poland contains recoverable coal reserves of more than 24,000 million short tons, of which more than 22,000 million short tons are hard coal. The hard-coal deposits are found in three main basins located in the southern half of the country: the Upper Silesian, Lower Silesian, and Lublin basins. These basins are of Carboniferous age. Poland uses its hard coal in world export markets. Poland's lignite deposits are found in a number of Tertiary basins across the central and southwestern parts of the country.

Poland ranks fourth in world lignite production and is the second largest European producer after Germany. The lignite is used as a fuel for electricity generation. Polish lignite has variable ash contents (4-25%) and low to medium sulfur contents (0.2-1.7%).


Asia contains significant recoverable coal reserves totaling over 231,000 million short tons, or approximately 21% of the world total. Two countries comprise most of this total: China (126,000 million short tons) and India (93,000 million short tons).

China China contains more than 126,000 million short tons of recoverable coal reserves in the world, third behind only the United States and Russia [2]. These recoverable reserves are nearly equally divided between hard coal and lignite deposits (i.e., 68,500 and 57,700 million short tons, respectively), with the hard coals being of Carboniferous, Permian, and Jurassic age and the lignite of Tertiary age. Coalfields are scattered throughout China, with the largest deposits being found in western China, stretching from north to south with most of the reserves in the northern part, specifically in the Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, and Shaanxi provinces. Significant anthracite deposits are found in the Shanxi and Guizhou provinces. Bituminous coal deposits occur in the Heilongjiang, Shanxi, Jiangxi, Shandong, Henan, Anhui, and Guizhou provinces [5]. China is the world's largest coal producer; most of the coal is used internally for industry and electricity generation. The hard-coal rank appears to increase slightly northward from the Yangtze River, while locally seam quality is very variable [5].

India India's recoverable coal reserves rank fourth in the world with more than 93,000 million short tons. These reserves vary in rank from lignites to bituminous coal, with most of it being hard coal (i.e., nearly 91,000 million short tons), although coal quality is generally poor. India's coalfields are located mainly in the east in the states of Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, and West Bengal [5]. India's coals are principally of Permian age with some of Tertiary age.

The most significant deposits are in the Raniganj and Jharia basins of northeast India. In the Raniganj basin, the rank increases from noncaking bituminous coal in the east to medium coking coal in the west. Ash content varies, though, from 15 to 35%; sulfur content is low (<1%). The Jharia coalfield is India's major source of prime coking coal, although it also contains significant non-coking coal as well. As with Raniganj basin coals, ash content varies from 15 to 35% and the coal has low sulfur contents in the Jharia basin. Most of India's lignite mining occurs in southern India in the Neyveli coalfield, although other areas contain larger resources. The lignite is low ash (2-12%) and low sulfur (<1%); however, the moisture content is high, varying between 45 and 55%. India's coal is used primarily for power production. Although India has substantial recoverable resources, coal imports are steadily rising to meet demands for coking coal as well as for steam coal as new power plants begin operation [5].


Australian recoverable coal reserves total over 90,000 million short tons, which is nearly equally divided between hard coal and lignite deposits (i.e., 46,900 and 43,600 million short tons, respectively) with the hard coals being of Carboniferous and Permian age and the lignite of Tertiary age. Coal is mined in all of the states except for the Northern Territory. New South Wales and Queensland produce both steam and metallurgical coal for export, while production in Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia is used for thermal electricity generation [5]. Hard coal is mined in New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia, while subbituminous and brown coal is mined in South Australia and Victoria. The major coal reserves are found in eastern Australia, with the Bowen, Sydney, and Gippsland basins being the most important.

The Bowen basin is located in Queensland and developed during early Permian times. The rank varies in this basin, increasing from west to east, with the higher rank coals ranging from low-volatile bituminous coal in the west to semi-anthracites and anthracites in the east. The coals have a low sulfur content (typically 0.3-0.8%) andash contents of 8 to 10% and 8 to 16% for coking and thermal coals, respectively.

The Sydney basin is located in New South Wales, is of Permian age, and consists of several coalfields. In general, the Sydney basin coals are medium-to high-volatile bituminous coal, with the highest rank being found in the northern portion of the basin. The coals in this basin have a low sulfur content (<1%), and ash contents typically range from 6 to 24%, although one coalfield exceeds 40% ash.

The brown coal resources found in the Gippsland basin lie within the Latrobe Valley in Victoria and are of Tertiary age. This area is noted for its thick coal seams ranging from 330 to 460 feet in thickness. The brown coals have low heating values (3400-5200 Btu/lb) due to high and very variable moisture contents, which range from 49 to 70%. Ash contents, on the other hand, are low and range from 0.5 to 2%.

Western Europe

Western Europe contains approximately 101,000 million short tons of recoverable coal reserves, with 72,800 million short tons in Germany alone. Fifteen other countries (see Table 1-4) comprise the balance; Yugoslavia contains by far the largest recoverable reserves of these countries (18,000 million short tons).

Germany Germany contains nearly 73,000 million short tons of recoverable coal reserves, of which more than 25,000 and 47,000 million short tons are hard coal and lignite, respectively. Germany is Europe's largest individual lignite producer; the three main areas of lignite resources are the Rhineland, Lusatian, and Central German basins, which are of Tertiary age. In addition, Germany has a substantial hard-coal capacity, which is of Carboniferous age and located in the Ruhr and Saar basins. Of the three main lignite basins, the Rhineland deposits are now the most important and are located between the River Rhine and the German/Dutch/Belgian border. The Central German and Lusatian basins are located in eastern Germany. The lignites have heating values of 3350 to 5400 Btu/lb, and moisture contents that vary from 40 to 60%. Ash and sulfur contents vary from 1.5 to 8.5% and 0.2 to 2.1%, respectively, with Rhineland basin lignite having sulfur contents of less than 0.5%. These coals are used for producing electricity in generating stations. Because of restructuring of the hard coal mining sector, which began in 1999, the Ruhr coalfield has greater economic significance than the Saar coalfield as mines continue to close and overall production declines [5]. The Ruhr coalfield primarily consists of bituminous coal, much of which is coking coal. There are two small areas of anthracite in the basin. The ash and sulfur contents of the coals in this basin are 4 to 9% and less than 1%, respectively. The coals are used primarily for electricity generation along with some industrial applications.


Africa contains 61,000 million short tons of recoverable coal, with approximately 55,000 million short tons of those reserves being located in South Africa. The balance is found in 13 other countries, with 11 of those countries containing less than about 200 million short tons each of recoverable reserves (see Table 1-4).

South Africa South Africa's recoverable coal reserves of 55,000 million short tons consist entirely of hard coal. These coals are of Carboniferous and Permian age with significant deposits in the Great Karoo basin. This basin extends about 300 miles from west to east across northern Free State Province and south and east Mpumalanga, and about 700 miles from southern Mpumalanga in the north to the center of Kwazulu-Natal in the south [5]. Although the Great Karoo basin is the largest, several other basins and a total of 19 coalfields are located throughout South Africa. The hard coal consists of bituminous coals, anthracite, and semi-anthracite. The ash content ranges from 7% for some anthracites to over 30% for bituminous coals. Sulfur contents range from less than 1% to nearly 3%. Domestically, the coal is used for electricity generation and conversion into synthetic liquid fuels and chemical feedstocks. South Africa exports significant quantities of steam coal with minor amounts of coking coal and anthracite.

Central and South America

Central and South America contain approximately 24,000 million short tons of recoverable coal reserves, or 2.2% of the world's total. Coal is found in several countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela; however, two of the countries contain the majority of these reserves: Brazil (13,150 million short tons) and Colombia (7200 million short tons). Brazil's coals are subbituminous and lignitic in rank, while Colombia's coals are primarily high-volatile bituminous with a small amount of subbituminous coals. These coals formed during late Cretaceous to Tertiary times.

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