China is currently the top producer of coal (BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2008). Coal production in China is focused mainly in the eastern provinces of Anhui, Guizhou, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Henan, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning, Shandong, and Shaanxi.
In the past 50 years, coal has represented the country’s primary energy consumption. It is recognized that coal will, in principle, remain China’s core energy source in the future. All types of coal have been explored, mostly low sulfur, low to medium ash content, and medium to high thermal value (China Coal & Mining Expo 2007).
Coal production in the United States occurs in several states, the major ones being Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Most of the coal fields in these states are bituminous coal, except for Wyoming which has mostly sub-bituminous deposits. In general, most of the coal from the Western states is low grade, sub-bituminous and lignite. There are very few anthracite deposits, the main ones being in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Alabama. Wyoming produces the most coal of any state, however Montana has the most coal reserves. The largest coal mine in the world is the North Antelope Rochelle Mine near Gillette, Wyoming.
The Annual Coal Report from the Energy Information Administration has a number of data tables on coal production, reserves, consumption, and open market sales prices, by state.
Coal is mined in every state in Australia and it plays a major role in the country’s economy. According to the Australian Coal Association, coal is the country’s largest single export with markets in China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Coal is also used to generate more than 80% of Australia’s electricity. The coal industry employs 130,000 people.
The majority of Australia’s coal is thermal or coking coal. There are also bituminous deposits in Western Australia and lignite deposits in Victoria. Australia's oldest deposits of black coal, found in New South Wales and Queensland, were formed between 180 and 225 million years ago. Younger black coals mined in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania are between 140 and 180 million years old. Victoria's lignite deposits are young by comparison, formed less than 45 million years ago.
At the end of 2006, there were 118 producing black coal mines in Australia, up from 105 at the end of 2005. By state, there were 62 mines in NSW, 49 in Queensland, one in South Australia, three in Western Australia, and three in Tasmania. The proportion of underground to open-cut mines has changed markedly over the past 10 years. At the end of 2006, the number of underground mines was 44, this number having risen slightly from a low of 37 at the end of 2004. The number of open-cut mines increased significantly to 74 over the same period.
India has a long history of commercial coal mining, starting from 1774 and covering nearly 220 years. The majority of the coal reserves are in the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Assam, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh. There are also lignite deposits in Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu. The coal deposits in southern India are in sedimentary rocks of older Gondwana formations. Those in the north and north-eastern mountainous regions of the country are younger Tertiary formations.
India's coal is characterized by high ash contents, but it has a low sulphur content (generally 0.5%), low iron content in ash, low chlorine content, and low trace element concentration. Coal is the dominant energy source in India, accounting for more than half of the country's requirements. 70% of the country’s coal production is used for power generation, with the remainder being used by heavy industry and public use.
More than 75% of South Africa's primary energy needs are provided by coal. In addition to the extensive use of coal in the domestic economy, about 28% of the country’s production is exported, mainly through the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, making South Africa one of the top coal exporting countries in the world.
South Africa's coal is obtained from collieries that range from among the largest in the world to small-scale producers. About 51% of South African coal mining is done underground and about 49% is produced by open-cast methods. The major use of coal in South Africa is for power generation and the petrochemical industries. Some is also used in the metallurgical industry.
By international standards, South Africa's coal deposits are relatively shallow with thick seams, which make them easier and, usually, cheaper to mine. At the present production rate, there should be more than 50 years of coal supply left. The result of the beneficiation of South African coals is the generation of approximately 60 million tonnes a year of discard coal, which is estimated to have already accumulated to more than 1 billion tonnes.