Fossil Fuels

Coal Mining

Coal is mined from the ground by two methods: surface mining and underground mining.

Surface mining is used to produce most of the coal in the U.S. because it is less expensive than underground mining. Surface mining can be used when the coal is buried less than 200 feet underground. In surface mining, giant machines remove the topsoil and layers of rock to expose large beds of coal. Once the mining is finished, the dirt and rock are returned to the pit, the topsoil is replaced, and the area is replanted.

Image showing surface mining of coal

Underground mining, sometimes called deep mining, is used when the coal is buried several hundred feet below the surface. To remove coal in these underground mines, miners ride elevators down deep mine shafts where they run machines that dig out the coal.

Image showing deep mining of coal



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