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Declining US coal production using mountaintop removal mining

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World Coal,

According to the US Energy Information Administration (IEA), coal production from mines with mountaintop removal (MTR) permits has decreased by 62% since 2008. Overall, total US coal production has declined approximately 15% from 2008 to 2014. The decline in demand for coal-fired electric power is a result of rising use of renewables, environmental regulations and competition from natural gas.

Mountaintop removal mining is most prevalent in Central Appalachia and in order to carry out MTR, a permit must be acquired. Most of the surface production in West Virginia comes from MTR production (61% in 2013).

Through identifying mines that have MTR permits, an estimate of MTR production can be made using mine production data. Yet quantify the total of coal produced from mountaintop mining is complex due to a range of mining techniques that can be carried out on a mountain top in conjunction or after the use of MTR, including contour mining and area mining.

Additional permits are needed if a mining operation includes a valley fill that allows the overburden to be deposited in intermittent or perennial streams. The Clean Water Rule has been finalised, which highlights specific waters protected under the act, by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Army. The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is working with EPA and US Army to develop an environmental impact statement (EIS) that analyses environmental impacts of coal opencast mining in the Appalachian region.

This statement is planned to be released with a proposed Stream Protection Rule in Summer 2015.

Edited from Source: EIA by Harleigh Hobbs

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