Coal Mining

Coal is a black or brownish-black shiny rock, and most of it is buried deep underground, so we must "mine," or dig it out. Finding coal used to be done by people called prospectors. Today it is done by geologists.

There are two types of mining methods: Surface Mining and Underground Mining.


Surface mining is done when the coal is less than 200 feet below the ground. Surface mining is the most common mining process, used to produce the most coal in the U.S. Giant machines like bulldozers, bucket excavators, and large trucks remove the topsoil and rocks to expose large beds of coal.

After the coal is mined, they replace the dirt and rocks and replant the area with seed and trees. This enables the area to be reused for things like natural habitats for wildlife, growing crops, or to build commercial properties like stores and offices.


Underground mining is done when the coal is more than 200 feet below the surface. Some mines can go as deep as 1,000 feet below the ground! Deep mine shafts are built to carry miners and digging equipment into the mineshaft to dig out the coal and bring it to the surface.