History of Ohio Coal Mining

Coal mining in Ohio began around 1800, with reported production amounting to 100 tons of coal mined from Jefferson County. Since 1800, over 3 billion tons of coal has been mined in Ohio. Ohio’s coal production has experienced a history of great fluctuation. During the first half of the 19th century, coal production never exceeded one million tons annually. Coal was cut and loaded entirely by hand and transported to local markets by means of wagons, carts, and flatboats. As Ohio transformed into an industrial state in the late 1800s, it became one of the largest coal-producing and coal-consuming states in the nation. During World War I, Ohio’s coal industry realized production levels that would not be seen again until the 1960s. In 1918, Ohio’s coal work force swelled to its greatest level of more than 50,000 individuals.

Today, Ohio’s coal industry employs up to 3,000 individuals. This decline is due in part to decreased production and technological advances. However, these advances have allowed productivity rates to soar, reaching an astonishing average of about 6 tons per miner per hour, or 48 tons in a single 8-hour day.

During the interwar period coal production sagged, but quickly regained momentum following World War II. This time period saw the advent of large, efficient excavating equipment, new drilling techniques, and newly developed explosives making earthmoving operations possible. Thus, surface mining operations became an economic alternative to underground mining. Surface mining involves the excavation of all the rock and soil above the desired coal seam, exposing it at the surface. With the rise of surface mining, coal production steadily increased until 1970. Since this time, production has decreased. This decline is due in part to increased transportation costs, but primarily to the significant impact of the Federal Clean Air Act, which placed stringent controls on emissions, particularly SO2 emissions, from coal-fired power plants.

Serious issues, such as the Clean Air Act, threaten our industry at both the federal and state level. That is why part of our mission is to educate and inform. Ohio coal is the backbone of our low cost electric industry, with close to 86% of Ohio’s electricity generated from coal. That is why the Ohio Coal Association works hard to educate and inform, so the coal industry can advance and stay vibrant.

Additional Reading:

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