Coal

Coal, specifically black coal, is one of the most important fossil fuels. It forms in all states and the Northern Territory in Australia. It is a beneficial resource that is used in a variety of ways. This report will summarize what coal is, what it’s used for, how it is formed, found and extracted and the advantages and disadvantages from the mining and consumption of coal.

Coal is an organic sedimentary rock. It is one of the three most important fossil fuels. Coal is mainly composed of about 50-98% of carbon, 3-13% of hydrogen and some oxygen with smaller quantities of nitrogen, sulphur, and other elements. It varies from having shiny lustre to being very dull. It also varies from being quite hard to soft. The major use of black coal is generating electricity. It is also used as a source of heat in manufacturing processes such as making bricks and cement. If it is heated, the gases, tars and residues that it produces can also be used for manufacturing processes. Things like plastics, roofing, synthetic rubber, paint products and medicines all include some sort of coal derived compounds.

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Coal is formed from the buildup and preservation of plant debris, usually in swamp environments. After the plant dies and falls into the swamp, the water protects it from decaying. Once a think layer of plant debris is formed, it must be buried by sediments like mud and sand. The weight of the sediment compresses the plant debris and assists its conversion into coal.
Before mining, geologists have to determine whether or not the coal deposit is suitable to mine. Geologists examine geological arrangements and then test the physical and chemical properties of soil and rocks to find possible mining deposits and verify the size and concentration of it. An accumulation of minerals is only referred to as an ore deposit if it is beneficial to mine. A mineral deposit will only be excavated if it is profitable.

Open-cut and underground mining are the two mining processes performed to obtain any mineral, including coal. Open-cut mining is a technique done on the surface whereas underground mining is done under the ground surface. In open-cut mining for coal, the rock concealing the coal deposit, called the overburden, is detonated and removed by huge draglines and/or electric or hydraulic shovels and trucks. The use of enhanced methods is characterized in Queensland at the Goonyella mine where the upper section of the overburden is shifted by a bucket and wheel excavator. After that, a truck and shovel process that extracts further overburden before deeper overburden is withdrawn by a dragline. There are two types of methods in underground coal mining used in Australia, which are bord and pillar or longwall techniques. The bord and pillar mining process includes extracting coal in a sequence of parallel tunnels, called bords, which are cut at right angles by another sequence, called cut-throughs. Doing this leaves blocks of coal known as pillars, which may be obtained in the second stage of mining. Longwall mining results in large blocks of coal being entirely removed and the mine roof is allowed to collapse behind the working face, which is the is the surface where the mining work is proceeding. Usually, the longwall method outcomes in higher efficiency and retrieval of coal than the bord and pillar method.

There are plenty advantages and disadvantages of coal mining and the consumption of coal. Some advantages the mining of coal is that it creates job opportunities and coal mines are quite inexpensive to build. Some advantages of coal and the consumption of it are that it is a reliable source of power 24/7, it is a low cost energy source and the great quantity of it as it can be found on every continent. The disadvantages of coal mining are the deaths that are caused and the devastation of the Earth and the natural surroundings around the mine. Some disadvantages of the consumption of coal is the gas production, as it releases Carbon Dioxide and this assists in global warming, the destruction of natural habitats and scenery and it pollutes the air and water in areas close to the mine. There may be lots of harmful things as a result of mining coal, but it is an important source for many things.

Coal is a very useful naturally occurring sedimentary rock. The coal mining industry creates many jobs, especially in Australia and the resource itself it has various uses for many things in our society.