Mainly composed of carbon, coal has been a prominent source of power generation for more than hundred years now and is widely used across a number of industries. Coal also serves as fuel in the extraction of iron from iron ore and for the production of cement.
The global coal industry is home to some of the world’s biggest mines, with vast facilities around the world dedicated to the extraction of the fossil fuel.
Depending on their properties, coal is mainly divided into four types such as peat, lignite, bituminous and anthracite.
The age and depth at which they are buried under the ground define the properties of a particular type of coal.
As mining of coal depends on the depth and quality of the coal seams, different techniques are used to dig the deposits.
World’s biggest coal mines
North Antelope Rochelle
Located in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, the North Antelope Rochelle coal mine has nearly 1.9 billion tons of provable and probable reserves.
The mine was opened in 1999, with the integration of the North Antelope Mine and Rochelle Mine.
In 2017, coal sold from the North Antelope Rochelle coal mine stood at 101.5 million tons.
Surface mining technique is used to mine the sedimentary coal deposit at the site. Coal quality is claimed to average 8,800 BTU/lb at the mine.
Haerwusu Coal Mine
With an estimated recoverable coal reserves of more than 1.7 billion tonnes, the Haerwusu Coal Mine is located in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China.
Spread over an area of 67km², the mine is situated in the middle of the Zhungeer Coalfield. China’s state-owned Shenhua Group owns and operates the mine.
Production from the mine was started in October 2008, and is also a major open-cast coal mine in China.
Hei Dai Gou coal mine
Estimated to contain 1.5 billion tonnes of recoverable coal reserves, the open-pit Hei Dai Gou coal mine is located in the middle of Zhungeer coal field in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China.
It is owned and operated by Shenhua Group. With a capacity to produce 30 million tonnes per year, the mine has been operating since 1999.
The low sulphur and low phosphorus coal produced at the mine is said to be a suitable source for power generation.
Moatize coal mine
Located in the Tete Province of Mozambique, the Moatize coal mine is estimated to contain recoverable coal reserves of 1.49 billion tonnes.
Brazilian mining company Vale is the owner and operator of the mine, which has been in production since July 2011.
Vale sold a stake in Mozambique’s Moatize coal project to Japan’s Mitsui & Co in 2017.
To transport the output from the mine, Vale invested in constructing two African railroads that include Sena and Nacala Corridor.
With a transport capacity of 18 million metric tonnes of coal per annum, the Nacala Corridor project will connect the Moatize Coal Mine to the Port of Nacala, according to the company’s website.
The 575km Sena railroad, which is already in operation, connects Moatize to the Port of Beira, in the south of Mozambique, with a transport capacity of 6 million metric tonnes of coal per year.
Black Thunder coal mine
Located in the Southern Powder River Basin of Wyoming, the Black Thunder coal mine was opened in 1977.
Covering an area of 35,700 acres, the mine is estimated to contain 1.4 billion tonnes of recoverable coal reserves.
The mine is operated by US-based coal mining and processing company Arch Coal.
It is one of the largest single coal mining complexes in the world to ship one billion tonnes of coal. In October 2009, Arch acquired Jacobs Ranch mine from Rio Tinto and merged it with its Black Thunder mine.
The mine produces low-sulphur, sub-bituminous coal, which is an ideal fuel for power generation.
Peak Downs coal mine
Located in the Bowen Basin of Central Queensland, Australia, the Peak Downs is a large open cut coking coal mine.
Production at the mine was started in 1972, and the mine is estimated to hold coal reserves of 1,063 million tonnes.
It is one of the seven Bowen Basin mines owned and operated by BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA).
The mine’s output is transported to the Hay Point Coal Terminal near Mackay for shipping through a railway line.
Mt Arthur coal mine
Located in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, Australia, the Mt Arthur coal mine was estimated to contain recoverable coal reserves of 1,049Mt.
Mining operations at the site began in 1968. It is an open-cut coal mine with its mining activities centred on 21 unique seams.
Coal produced at the site is supplied to domestic and international customers in the energy sector. It is owned by BHP Billiton.
In March 2018, Thiess secured a contract from BHP to provide additional mining services at the Mount Arthur Coal operation.