TSHA | Coal and Lignite Mining (2022)

Texas has an appreciable quantity of low to medium grade bituminous coal and a large quantity of average to high grade lignite. Bituminous coal is found in north central Texas in Pennsylvanian rocks in Coleman, Eastland, Erath, Jack, McCulloch, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Wise, Young, and other counties. Cannel coal is found in considerable quantities in Maverick and Webb counties. Coal deposits in the Trans-Pecos area of West Texas occur in Brewster, Hudspeth, and Presidio counties. Earlier mines at Thurber in Erath County, Bridgeport in Wise County, Newcastle in Young County, and Strawn in Palo Pinto County produced large tonnages and in 1950 continued small-scale production for local use. Lignite, a low-grade coal, is found in a broad band of Tertiary Eocene strata that extends across the Coastal Plain from the Rio Grande near Laredo in South Texas to the Arkansas and Louisiana borders of East Texas, and in a group of intervening counties including Panola, Harrison, Marion, Gregg, Rusk, and Shelby. The largest source and best grades of lignite occur in the Wilcox Group of strata north of the Colorado River in East and Central Texas. In the period from 1895 to 1943, Texas mines produced more than twenty-five million tons of coal. Sixty thousand tons of lignite was mined in Texas in 1947. Deposits have been found in Angelina, Atascosa, Bastrop, Fayette, Freestone, Grimes, Harrison, Henderson, Hopkins, Houston, Limestone, McMullen, Milam, Panola, Robertson, Rusk, Titus, Van Zandt, and Walker counties. A thorough survey on which to base an accurate estimate of Texas coal and lignite resources has never been made, but it is estimated that there are 60,000 square miles of lignite territory with a supply of probably twenty billion tons of commercially valuable lignite. The coal belt is spottier and more difficult to estimate, but it is believed that the deposits exceed eight billion tons.

Coal was a significant energy source in Texas before the development of oil and gas. Early Texas settlers undoubtedly mined both coal and lignite from numerous outcroppings across the state for use in their homes, stores, and blacksmith shops. Commercial mining, however, did not begin until the 1880s. Coal production, first listed at 125,000 tons for Texas in 1884, declined for the next three years but climbed significantly from 1889 to 1901, when it reached 1,107,953 tons. In the mid-1880s, discoveries in northwestern Erath County led to operations that made it a leading coal-producing area in the state. The Texas and Pacific Coal Company established a company town at Thurber, which survived until the 1930s. After a slight recession in the industry in 1902–3, production surpassed the 1901 total in 1904, and began a steady climb to reach an all-time peak in 1913 at 2,429,920 tons. Totals declined slightly between 1914 and 1916, but soared to near the 1913 peak again in 1917 as the United States became involved in World War I. In the 1920s the industry underwent a sharp recession as competition from petroleum and electricity hurt the entire bituminous-lignite industry. The Texas decline was not unique. A brief rise took place in 1927, followed by a steady decline until 1935, when production fell to a thirty-year low of 757,529 tons. Mining practically ceased after World War II, and production totaled only 18,169 tons in 1950. The industry received a tremendous boost in the 1950s, however, when the Aluminum Company of America began using char produced from lignite at a plant near Rockdale. Production figures were not released after 1953, but the ALCOA operation was expected to consume approximately 300,000 tons of lignite a year.

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Several methods have been used for extracting coal and lignite, including the pillar and stall, longwall, and strip mining. Mining was usually done formerly by hand with primitive tools, although gasoline locomotives were sometimes used. Most mines were small, yielding between 10,000 and 50,000 tons per year, and the bulk of coal produced was used within the state. Though railroads were early purchasers, they found the quality poor and used it only sparingly. Lignite was burned in homes, converted to briquettes used in boilers to produce steam for generating power, and reduced to activated carbon, a substance used as a clarifying agent in the sugar-refining industry. By-products of coal and lignite, including gas, coal tar, and char, were also obtained.

In the 1970s bituminous coal production resumed in the state after a long hiatus. Construction began on surface mines in southern Coleman County and the Thurber area of Erath County to produce coal for use as fuel in the cement industry. Construction continued on a Texas Utilities Company generating plant in Freestone County to be fueled with lignite from Freestone and Limestone County amounting to five million tons a year. Milam County lignite mining by the Industrial Generating Company produced fuel for electric power generation, while Harrison County lignite mined by Atlas Chemical Industries was processed into activated carbon. In 1975 the four strip mines in Texas produced a total of 11,002,000 short tons of lignite, representing an increase of 43 percent over the previous year and 172 percent over 1972. Subsequent production continued to increase for the next several years. The Texas Utilities Generating Company operated the state's largest producer, the Big Brown mine in Freestone County, and the Monticello mine in Titus County, which together produced more than 80 percent of the total, and planned a pilot in situ project to test the potential for gasifying Texas lignites in deep-basin beds. The remainder of the year's production came from the ALCOA Sandow strip mine in Milam County and the ICI United States Darco strip mine in Harrison County. The entire production was used within the state. Mining of cannel coals in the Santo Tomás district of Webb County, used mostly for boiler fuel, ceased from 1939 till 1978, when a surface mine was opened to produce coal for use in the cement industry. Coals of the Santo Tomás district were also demonstrated to have high gas, oil, and sulfur content, a fact that suggested their possible use as a source of petrochemical products. Leasing for lignite and coal continued strong, but was slower than in previous years, a decline indicating that easily attainable acreage had already been acquired. Several new mines, however, including the Martin Lake strip mine near Beckville in Panola County, were under development.

In the 1980s exploration for lignite resources continued, and bituminous coal was mined in the Eagle Pass section of Maverick County in South Texas. In 1986 lignite production totaled 48,346,000 tons, principally for the production of steam-generated electricity. By the 1990s, Texas was the nation's sixth leading coal producing state. As much as 99 percent of the product was lignite. A Milam County mine supplied electric power for alumina reduction, a Harrison County strip mine produced lignite used to make activated carbon, and other mines in Atascosa, Bastrop, Freestone, Grimes, Harrison, Limestone, Rusk, Panola, Titus, and Hopkins counties produced lignite for municipal, domestic, and industrial needs. Lignite reserves were estimated at approximately 23 billion short tons, and economically recoverable reserves of strippable lignite were estimated at nine to eleven billion tons. Other lignite resources of the Texas Gulf Coastal Plain, occurring as deep-basin deposits, were comparable in magnitude to near-surface resources.

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  • Bibliography
  • Citation
  • Published

Thomas J. Evans, Bituminous Coal in Texas (Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas at Austin, 1974). Gary Warren Hamilton, Texas Lignite and the National Synthetic Fuel Effort (Master of Public Affairs Report, University of Texas at Austin, 1980). U.S. Bureau of Mines, Minerals Yearbook. University of Texas, Texas Looks Ahead: The Resources of Texas (Austin, 1944; rpt., Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1968). David M. White and Olin B. Clemons, Coal and Lignite (Austin: Governor's Energy Advisory Council, 1977).

(Video) Albánie hnědouhelný důl / Albanian lignite mine

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Dwight F. Henderson and Diana J. Kleiner,“Coal and Lignite Mining,”Handbook of Texas Online,accessed July 28, 2022,https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/coal-and-lignite-mining.

(Video) Introduction to Lignite

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Original Publication Date:
1976
Most Recent Revision Date:
September 26, 2019

FAQs

Where is lignite mined? ›

Approximately 7% of the coal mined in the U.S. is lignite. It's found primarily in North Dakota (McLean, Mercer, and Oliver counties), Texas, Mississippi (Kemper County) and, to a lesser degree, Montana. The Lignite Energy Council notes that brown coal is more accessible than other types of coal.

What are the different types of coal mining? ›

There are three major types of underground coal mining: longwall mining, room-and-pillar mining, and retreat mining.

How is lignite mined? ›

Exploration Drilling. Before mining begins, a rotary drill is used to define the lignite field, the depth and thickness of lignite seams, and the amount and type of material (or "overburden") overlying the lignite. This information is used by BNI engineers to determine where the best lignite deposits are located.

How coal mining is done? ›

Surface coal mining generally involves the following sequence of unit operations: (1) clearing the land of trees and vegetation, (2) removing and storing the top layers of the unconsolidated soil (topsoil), (3) drilling the hard strata over the coal seam, (4) fragmenting or blasting the hard strata with explosives, (5) ...

Why is lignite so important? ›

Lignite constitutes a major energy source and has long been used for energy production despite its contribution in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as a fossil fuel.

What is use of lignite? ›

Lignite

Which coal is the most used? ›

Bituminous coal is the most abundant rank of coal found in the United States, and it accounted for about 44% of total U.S. coal production in 2020. Bituminous coal is used to generate electricity and is an important fuel and raw material for making coking coal or use in the iron and steel industry.

What are the 3 types of mines? ›

Open-pit, underwater, and underground mining. These are the three main methods of mining we use to extract our products from the ground. In this Digging Deeper article, we take a look at these different methods and provide a glimpse into what each involves.

What are 4 types of mining? ›

There are four main mining methods: underground, open surface (pit), placer, and in-situ mining. Underground mines are more expensive and are often used to reach deeper deposits.

What is called lignite? ›

Lignite: Lignite coal, aka brown coal, is the lowest grade coal with the least concentration of carbon. Lignite has a low heating value and a high moisture content and is mainly used in electricity generation.

How do you identify lignite? ›

Lignite coal is a soft, brown, combustible, sedimentary rock formed from naturally compressed peat. It is considered to be the lowest rank of coal due to its relatively low heat content. It has lowest carbon (C) content amongst all types of coals.

Is lignite better than coal? ›

Lignite is often called “brown coal” because it is lighter in color than the higher ranks of coal. It has the lowest carbon content out of all the coal ranks (25%-35%)1 and it has a high moisture content and crumbly texture. It is mainly used in electricity generation.

How is lignite used for energy? ›

In these power plants the coal is burned and used in industrial boilers. 79% of all lignite coal is used in these boilers to generate electricity, and 13.5% is used to generate synthetic natural gas. A small 7.5% is used to produce various fertilizer products.

Which is the best quality of coal and why? ›

Anthracite is the best quality of coal which carries 80 to 95 per cent carbon content. It ignites slowly with a blue flame. It has the highest calorific value.

Which type of fuel is lignite? ›

Which type of fuel is lignite? Explanation: Lignite is a primary fuel as it can be extracted from nature without any sort of transformation process. Lignite is soft brown coal. It is considered as the lowest rank of coal.

Who discovered coal? ›

The first recorded discovery of coal in this country was by French explorers on the Illinois River in 1679, and the earliest recorded commercial mining occurred near Richmond, Virginia, in 1748. On April 13, 1750, Dr. Thomas Walker was the first recorded person to discover and use coal in Kentucky.

What type of coal is best for environment? ›

Anthracite coal is the hottest burning fuel in comparison to the most common ones in use. Environmentally cleaner than other fossil fuels. Due to its low sulfur content, Anthracite coal produces virtually no smoke or particulate emissions. This is a major problem with cord wood and pellet burning stoves.

What should I study for mining? ›

If interested in a mining engineering career, proper education is the first step. Some colleges and universities offer mining engineering or geological engineering programmes, but this is rare. However, similar degrees such as civil or environmental engineering or geoscience are often accepted.

What is the best type of mining? ›

Surface mining is best suited to extract minerals that are close to the surface of the earth. It is also usually a more cost-effective mining method compared to underground mining. Common minerals extracted using surface mining are some of the most mined including coal, iron and bauxite.

What are the 4 steps of mining? ›

The mining industry operates through a sequence of stages: exploration, discovery, development, production and reclamation.

What are the 2 type of mining? ›

The two major categories of modern mining include surface mining and underground mining. In surface mining, the ground is blasted so that ores near Earth's surface can be removed and carried to refineries to extract the minerals.

What is mining used for? ›

Mining is the process used to extract valuable resources from the Earth. It is done to acquire any resource that cannot be grown or fabricated through artificial means. More specifically, mining is used to extract non-renewable resources like fossil fuels, minerals and even water.

What is the process of mining? ›

Modern mining processes involve prospecting for ore bodies, analysis of the profit potential of a proposed mine, extraction of the desired materials, and final reclamation or restoration of the land after the mine is closed.

What minerals are in lignite? ›

Kaolinite, quartz, and gypsum are the main minerals in lignite. Both the fly ash and bottom ash of lignite belong to class-F with SiO₂ > Al₂O₃ > CaO > MgO. Both the ashes contain quartz, mullite, anhydrite, and albite. As, In, and Sr have higher concentration in the feed than the ashes.

Does lignite produce smoke? ›

Higher quality coal produces less smoke, burns longer, and provides more energy than lower quality coal.
...
Coal types.
CoalLignite
Dry, Carbon content (%)65-70
Moisture content before drying (%)35-55
Dry, volatile content (%)53-63
Heat Content (MJ/kg)17-18
4 more columns
Jul 21, 2018

Which country has the largest reserve of lignite? ›

In 2020, Russia had lignite coal reserves amounting to more than 90 billion metric tons, making it the country with the largest lignite coal reserves worldwide.
...
Leading countries based on lignite reserves in 2020 (in million metric tons)
CharacteristicReserves in million metric tons
Russia*90,447
Australia73,865
8 more rows

Is lignite a fossil fuel? ›

Lignite is a type of solid fossil fuel. Together with sub-bituminous coal, lignite is part of the so-called 'brown coal' group. Compared to hard coals (anthracite, other bituminous coal, coking coal), lignite has a low energy content i.e. a low calorific value.

How hot does lignite coal burn? ›

The ignition temperatures derived at constant heating rate from the burning profiles of the lignite samples lie in the range of 150–230ıC.

How much carbon is present in lignite? ›

Lignite is brownish-black in color and has a carbon content around 60–70 percent, a high inherent moisture content sometimes as high as 75 percent, and an ash content ranging from 6–19 percent.

Why is lignite bad? ›

The combustion of lignite produces less heat for the amount of carbon dioxide and sulfur released than other ranks of coal. As a result, environmental advocates have characterized lignite as the most harmful coal to human health.

Which country has largest reserves of lignite? ›

List
RankCountrySubbituminous & lignite
Tonnes (mil)
1United States30,052
2Russia90,730
3Australia76,508
27 more rows

Is lignite better than coal? ›

Lignite is often called “brown coal” because it is lighter in color than the higher ranks of coal. It has the lowest carbon content out of all the coal ranks (25%-35%)1 and it has a high moisture content and crumbly texture. It is mainly used in electricity generation.

What is difference between coal and lignite? ›

Subbituminous coal has low-to-moderate heating values and is mainly used in electricity generation. Lignite: Lignite coal, aka brown coal, is the lowest grade coal with the least concentration of carbon. Lignite has a low heating value and a high moisture content and is mainly used in electricity generation.

Is lignite good for the environment? ›

Combustion of lignite is one of the environmentally worst ways to generate energy. Even so, there is a continued increase in many parts of Europe. Lignite is a low-quality carbonaceous fuel in geological transition from peat to hard coal.

Is lignite bad for the environment? ›

Just like with regular black coal, lignite-firing results in dust, NOx and SO2 emissions. These can combine to create a cocktail of air pollution — which is dangerous to health. Exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and heart disease.

Is lignite a pollution? ›

Lignite is the most health-harming form of coal, given the higher amount of pollution resulting from its combustion. European countries are the biggest producers and consumers of lignite coal worldwide.

Which is the largest coal mine in the world? ›

The largest coal mine in the world by reserves is the North Antelope Rochelle coal mine in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, US. The mine was estimated to contain more than 1.7 billion tonnes of recoverable coal as of December 2018.

Where is the largest lignite coal mines? ›

The correct answer is Neyveli. Neyveli is the largest lignite coalfield in India. Neyveli is located in Tamil Nadu, coal found in Neyveli has more than 35 percent carbon content. Neyveli coal mine comes under the NLC (A NAVRATNA company under the Ministry of Coal).

How is lignite used for energy? ›

In these power plants the coal is burned and used in industrial boilers. 79% of all lignite coal is used in these boilers to generate electricity, and 13.5% is used to generate synthetic natural gas. A small 7.5% is used to produce various fertilizer products.

How do you identify lignite? ›

Lignite coal is a soft, brown, combustible, sedimentary rock formed from naturally compressed peat. It is considered to be the lowest rank of coal due to its relatively low heat content. It has lowest carbon (C) content amongst all types of coals.

Is lignite a fossil fuel? ›

Lignite is a type of solid fossil fuel. Together with sub-bituminous coal, lignite is part of the so-called 'brown coal' group. Compared to hard coals (anthracite, other bituminous coal, coking coal), lignite has a low energy content i.e. a low calorific value.

Which type of coal is best? ›

Anthracite contains 86%–97% carbon and generally has the highest heating value of all ranks of coal.

How hot does lignite coal burn? ›

The ignition temperatures derived at constant heating rate from the burning profiles of the lignite samples lie in the range of 150–230ıC.

Which mine can produce the greatest amount of electricity? ›

Expert-verified answer

One of the most important resources is the coal mine.

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