Majority of U.S. coal mines shuttered in last decade — EIA

Source: Dylan Brown, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2019

The U.S. Energy Information Administration today reported more than half of all American coal mines closed during the worst decade for coal in modern memory.

In 2008, there were 1,435 coal mines in the United States. By the end of 2017, there were 671.

“The uptick in mine closures since 2008 has largely been driven by economics, and smaller, less profitable mines have been more susceptible to closures,” EIA wrote. “Several factors dictate the profitability of mines, including the method used to extract the coal.”

Most of the 764 mines shuttered were underground operations. About 60 percent of underground mines closed during the last decade.

That meant, as EIA noted, “Most of the mine closures were in the Appalachian region.”

More than 77 percent of coal production comes from underground mines east of the Mississippi River, which includes the coal regions of Appalachia and the Illinois Basin.

Only 49 percent of surface mines closed between 2008 and 2018.

But because the massive operations west of the Mississippi River produce far more coal per mine, production dropped 15 percent more at surface mines than underground operations.

The remaining coal mines nationwide face ongoing hardship. Coal consumption, which is almost exclusively for electricity generation, dropped to its lowest point in four decades (E&E News PM, Dec. 4, 2018).

EIA has predicted consumption will continue to decline, causing a corresponding dip in coal mine production and the potential for more mine closures.