Despite a decline in U.S. coal production since 2008, dozens of new mines are still being proposed, some to replace declining production at existing mines and others to provide coal for growing exports.
Overseas, large numbers of new mines are being proposed in a handful of coal exporting countries: Indonesia, Mongolia, Mozambique, and South Africa.
Among analysts who study coal reserves, a widely accepted observation is that “the easiest coal gets mined first.” A corollary is that mining impacts such as water pollution and destruction of forests and agricultural land become increasingly severe as miners seek out coal that is lower in quality, less accessible, and contained in thinner and thinner seams. All these factors lead to a growing land footprint, estimated to be over eight million acres in the United States so far.
Typically, proposals for new mines go hand in hand with initiatives to build for new rail lines and export terminals. Other important topics related to mining include federal coal leasing, reclamation, and environmental impacts.