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US coal production moves up in 2017

Coal News - Published on Mon, 12 Mar 2018

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Daily Energy Insider reported that coal mining production ticked up in 2017, but is down 24 % since 2012, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s Annual Coal Report. The report found that coal production is down 24 % from 1,016 million tons in 2012 to 774 million tons in 2017. There have been a large number of mine closings in that five-year stretch. Since 2012, 547, or about 45 %, of the 1,229 US coal mines have closed. Further, miner hours worked declined 39 % over that period.

However, coal mining productivity which measures the average production per employee hour is up. Coal mining productivity hit 6.8 tons per miner hour in 2017, up 26 percent from 2012 when it was at 5.4 tons per miner hour in 2012. Productivity was highest in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, far exceeding productivity in the Interior and Appalachian regions. Technology and process improvements have contributed to the increase in productivity.

In 2017, coal productivity ranged from 28.8 tons per miner-hour in the Powder River Basin to just 2.4 tons per miner-hour in Central and Southern Appalachia. This wide range is due to several factors, including the size of mines, coal seam geology, extraction technology, and coal types.

There are currently 610 producing mines in the Appalachian and Illinois basins, where coal came from underground mines with average seam thicknesses of up to six feet. The Powder River Basin has only 16 mines, but those mines produced 43 % of the US total in 2017. The Powder River Basin mines are large surface mines with average seam thickness of 65 feet. This allows for the use of larger mining equipment, which results in greater productivity.

While coal production and employment are down over the five-year period, 2017 did see an uptick in those areas. After several years of declines, coal production increased 6 % last year while total labor hours rose by 7 % in 2017. The 2017 increases were driven by the stabilizing financial condition of producers and increasing export demand. US coal exports were up from 60 million tons in 2016 to 97 million tons in 2017 the highest level since 2014. Export markets were a destination for about 13 percent of total U.S. coal production.

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Posted By : Nanda Koijam on Mon, 12 Mar 2018
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