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Available Coal Resources in Eastern and Western Kentucky

Contact William Andrews


In 1983, detailed coal-resource estimates were completed for the Eastern and Western Kentucky Coal Fields. The results of this work indicated that, for beds greater than 14 inches in thickness, 57 billion short tons and 38 billion short tons remained in eastern and western Kentucky, respectively. Although these estimates of the total resources suggest future mining potential on the order of hundreds of years, this potential may be greatly reduced if land-use and technological restrictions to mining are considered. Coal Availability for Economic Development is an ongoing national research program supported by the U.S. Geological Survey to quantify the kinds and magnitudes of restrictions to mining in order to plan the development of energy resources. Results have been summarized in open-file reports and information circulars.

Eastern Kentucky
For eastern Kentucky, detailed coal-availability estimates have been prepared for nine 7.5-minute quadrangles in the region. The results for all studies show that technological restrictions are the most important factor in eastern Kentucky. Coal that is too thin to be mined by underground methods accounts for much of the restricted coal.

Western Kentucky
For western Kentucky, detailed estimates have been prepared for 14 quadrangles. These results also show that technological restrictions are the most important factor. In this region, a significant amount of one coal bed has been rendered unmineable because an underlying coal bed has been mined by underground methods. Also, several important coals have been extensively mined, and remaining coal is found at greater depths than has been mined in the past. Large areas of the Western Kentucky Coal Field contain alluvial valleys that may affect mineability of underlying coals. Although the valleys do not preclude mining, they add significantly to exploration and development costs.

Regional Studies: National Coal Assessment
In the course of preparing the quadrangle estimates, sampling bias was clear in the small study areas. In order to compensate for this effect, larger studies were prepared that ranged from 2 to 15 quadrangles. These analyses confirmed the general results of the earlier studies, but showed improved estimates for previous mining and further reduced the magnitude of land-use restrictions. The success of the larger studies led to a new program to assess coal resources on a basin-wide scale: the National Coal Assessment program .