Coal is a combustible, sedimentary, organic rock, which is composed mainly of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

It is formed from vegetation, which has been consolidated between other rock strata and altered by the combined effects of pressure and heat over millions of years to form coal seams.

Coal is a fossil fuel and is far more plentiful than oil or gas, with around 109 years of coal remaining worldwide.

Not only does coal provide electricity, it is also an essential fuel for steel and cement production, and other industrial activities.

following provides further information on coal, where it is found, how it is mined and used;


Coal formation began during the Carboniferous Period – known as the first coal age – which 220px-Coal_anthracitespanned 360 million to 290 million years ago.
Coal is a fossil fuel and is the altered remains of prehistoric vegetation that originally accumulated in swamps and peat bogs.
The energy we get from coal today comes from the energy that plants absorbed from the sun millions of years ago. All living plants store solar energy through a process known as photosynthesis. When plants die, this energy is usually released as the plants decay. Under conditions favourable to coal formation, the decaying process is interrupted, preventing the release of the stored solar energy. The energy is locked into the coal.

Over 6185 million tonnes (Mt) of hard coal is currently produced worldwide and 1046 Mt of brown coal/lignite. The largest coal producing countries are not confined to one region – the top five hard coal producers are China, the USA, India, Australia and South Africa. Much of global coal production is used in the country in which it was produced; only around 17% of hard coal production is destined for the international coal market.

Access to modern energy services not only contributes to economic growth and household incomes but also to the improved quality of life that comes with better education and health services. All sources of energy will be needed to meet future energy demand, including coal.


Coal has many important uses worldwide. The most significant uses of coal are in electricity generation, steel production, cement manufacturing and as a liquid fuel. Around 6.6 billion tonnes of hard coal were used worldwide last year and 1 billion tonnes of brown coal.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, global coal consumption has grown faster than any other fuel. The five largest coal users – China, USA, India, Russia and Japan – account for 76% of total global coal use.

Different types of coal have different uses. Steam coal – also known as thermal coal – is mainly used in power generation. Coking coal – also known as metallurgical coal – is mainly used in steel production.

The biggest market for coal is Asia, which currently accounts for over 67% of global coal consumption; although China is responsible for a significant proportion of this. Many countries do not have natural energy resources sufficient to cover their energy needs, and therefore need to import energy to help meet their requirements. Japan, Chinese Taipei and Korea, for example, import significant quantities of steam coal for electricity generation and coking coal for steel production.

Other important users of coal include alumina refineries, paper manufacturers, and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Several chemical products can be produced from the by-products of coal. Refined coal tar is used in the manufacture of chemicals, such as creosote oil, naphthalene, phenol, and benzene. Ammonia gas recovered from coke ovens is used to manufacture ammonia salts, nitric acid and agricultural fertilisers. Thousands of different products have coal or coal by-products as components: soap, aspirins, solvents, dyes, plastics and fibres, such as rayon and nylon.