Frequently Asked Questions

How large are U.S. coal reserves?

There are three separate components for U.S. coal reserves.

  • Recoverable reserves
  • Demonstrated reserve base
  • Estimated recoverable reserves

In 2012, the recoverable reserves at producing (active) mines totaled 18,664 million short tons. Recoverable reserves at producing mines represent the quantity of coal that can be recovered (i.e. mined) from existing coal reserves at reporting mines. These reserves essentially reflect the working inventory at producing mines.

For 2012, the demonstrated reserve base was estimated to contain 481,385 million short tons. Demonstrated reserve base is composed of coal resources that have been identified to specified levels of accuracy and may support economic mining under current technologies. It includes publicly-available data on coal that has been mapped and verified to be technologically minable.

In 2012, the estimated recoverable reserves totaled 257,648 million short tons. Estimated recoverable reserves is coal in the demonstrated reserve base considered recoverable after excluding coal estimated to be unavailable due to land use restrictions, and after applying assumed mining recovery rates.  This estimate does not include any specific economic feasibility criteria.

Learn more:

Recoverable coal reserves at producing mines, estimated recoverable reserves, and demonstrated reserves by mining method (Coal Annual)

Demonstrated coal reserve base by region and state


Last updated: January 14, 2014


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