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Coal Resources In Kentucky

Original Resources

Original resources of both coal fields were last calculated by the Kentucky Geological Survey during the late 1970's and early 1980's. The original resource in the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field is estimated to be 64 billion tons and in the Western Kentucky Coal Field it is estimated to be 41 billion tons. The total for Kentucky is estimated to be 105 billion tons. These estimates are for near-surface and subsurface coals greater than 14 inches thick and were based on data available to the Kentucky Geological Survey. These data include measurements of coal thickness and elevation at surface exposures and from drill holes.

Remaining resources

Reported cumulative production between 1790 and 1992 (8.23 billion tons) and estimated losses in mining (pillars left in place and processing losses) have reduced Kentucky's coal resources to 88.5 billion tons, or 84 percent of original estimates. Mining losses vary among mines and types of mining; regional estimates assume an average 50 percent recovery. This amount, 44 billion tons, still represents 2.5 times the cumulative historical mining production and losses. Anecdotal reports suggest, however, that many companies (especially in eastern Kentucky) are having difficulty locating reserves beyond ten to twenty years. Other factors not taken into account during the coal availability studies, such as coal quality and infrastructure, may have further reduced economically developable resources. Recent studies of coal availability in selected geological quadrangles in both coal fields indicate that less than 50 percent of these remaining resources are available for mining by current methods. A related program, Coal Recoverability, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Mines and the US Geological Survey addressed these issues in large-scale site-specific studies, but there are insufficient publically-available coal quality data from which to prepare a comprehensive regional assessment.

Resources and reserves

Official statistics and explanations of coal resources, and coal reserves can be found at:

U.S. EIA’s U.S. coal reserves database (1997). Provides data and information on the demonstrated reserve base and estimated recoverable reserves by region, state, rank, and mine type.

U.S. EIA’s (and USGS’s) resource and reserve terminology. Provides definitions and graphics about resources, reserves, etc.

U.S. EIA’s Annual coal report (2008). Provides most recent (2006) summary on U.S. coal with data tables by state, mine type, etc., including the following tables that provide information by state, and mine type concerning recoverable reserves and demonstrated reserve base. The following may be useful for data:

U.S. EIA’s Glossary of Selected Coal Terms