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Coal Mining in Pennsylvania

Beginning in the mid-1700's, coal mining in Pennsylvania fueled the Industrial Revolution in the United States, beginng with to the Colonial iron industry, followed by Andrew Carnegie's steel mills in the 1800's, and the electric power plants of more modern times.

Pennsylvania is now the fourth largest coal producer in the United States, following Wyoming, West Virginia and Kentucky. Over 69.5 million tons of coal were mined in the state in 1995 (about 6.7 percent of U.S. production) in 878 mining operations employing 10,165 people.

Two kinds of coal are mined in Pennsylvania- anthracite (hard coal) and bituminous (softer coal). Over 60.8 million tons of bituminous coal were mined in 1995 and 8.7 million tons of anthracite.

Since 1870, Pennsylvania's Annual Report on Mining Activities has recorded 51,483 deaths from mining accidents-- 31,113 deaths in anthracite mines and 20,370 deaths in bituminous mines. Modern mining methods, safety training and inspections have dramatically improved the industry's safety record.

The environmental legacy of hundreds of years of coal mining in Pennsylvania includes over 2,400 miles of Pennsylvania's 54,000 miles of streams polluted by acid mine drainage from old mining operations. Acid mine drainage is the single largest source of water pollution in the state. Modern laws and regulations require that present day mining cannot begin if it might harm the environment.

Since 1967, Pennsylvania and the federal government have invested close to $500 million to correct problems from abandoned surface and deep mines. These reclamation efforts are funded by a 35 cent per ton federal fee on coal being mined today and also from state reclamation funds from fees and reclamation bonds that have been forfeited. Over $15 billion worth of reclamation remains yet to be done. In addition, Pennsylvania must deal with related problems such as the mine fire that is burning under the town of Centralia, Columbia County.

Pennsylvania has invested $20.7 million to construct 13 acid mine drainage treatment plants around the state to treat acid mine drainage discharges. This legacy has resulted in a series of environmental laws to regulate coal mining operations that began in 1913. Economically, mining contributes over 2 million dollars (about 1 percent) of Pennsylvania's gross state economic product.


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