Coal in Indiana: Research

John R. Hill

Recent studies of fuels as energy resources in the generation of electric power have identified coal as the fuel of choice in America for the foreseeable future. The Indiana Geological Survey and many of Indiana's coal producers have entered into a variety of cooperative studies to help define the availability of low-sulfur coals, to learn more about the environments in which coal forms (see "There's no fuel like an old fuel, searching for new energy in Indiana coal beds" in Indiana University Research & Creative Activity, January 1998, Volume XX, Number 3), and to assist industry geologists in the identification of widely-varying rock types that are encountered in subsurface coal exploration and development coring operations (see "Transforming geological field work" in Indiana University Research & Creative Activity).

Did you know:

  • That most of the coal produced in Indiana comes from 17 counties in the southwestern part of the state?
  • That Indiana hosts more than 35 billion tons of coal in the ground including nearly 18 billion tons of recoverable coal reserves?
  • That annual coal production during the last 5 years has averaged about 30 million tons with a value of about $600 million?
  • That the Indiana coal industry employs more than 2,500* Hoosiers directly and thousands more in the various support and associated service industries?

*According to the Energy Information Administration, an average of 2,543 people were employed in underground and surface coal mines in Indiana during 2001.

The coal industry in cooperation with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Division of Reclamation, prepares detailed reclamation plans for every coal mining operation in the state. The goal of mined-land reclamation is the restoration to original condition of land surfaces disturbed during mining operations. Reclamation programs also ensure that surface-water supplies are not polluted, that ground-water supplies are protected, that vegetative cover is restored, and that blasting operations fall within specified guidelines. The Indiana Geological Survey has worked for nearly 20 years with IDNR Division of Reclamation staff to evaluate the effectiveness of abandoned mine land reclamation projects in Indiana and to develop new and improved methods of mine reclamation (see "Mapping the future of coal" in Indiana University Research & Creative Activity).

Additionally, scientists within the survey are involved in a series of collaborative programs with other agencies to assess the amount of coal available for mining and the details of reserves that remain in the ground. These programs are the Coal Availability and National Coal Resources Data System, being conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey. Both programs are computer-based and provide data to the users in digital form. Another computer-based program that the survey has been engaged in for the previous 14 years is the Coal Mine Information System, a digital compilation of all surface and underground coal mines and details of their workings. The afore mentioned programs are all available in digital form and are constructed in a geographic information system with accompanying relational databases (see "Mapping the future of coal" in Indiana University Research & Creative Activity).

The Indiana Geological Survey continues in its partnership with our coal industry by helping the industry locate reserves of low-sulfur coal, and by evaluating and helping to locate reserves of limestone and dolomite that are essential components in flue-gas scrubbing operations and in modern coal combustion technology, such as fluidized-bed combustion (see "Using limestone for cleaner air" in Indiana University Research & Creative Activity).

For more information about the coal industry in Indiana, contact the Coal and Industrial Minerals Section of the Indiana Geological Survey at 812-855-2687, or contact the Indiana Coal Council at:

Indiana Coal Council, Inc.
150 West Market Street
Suite 400
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: 317-638-6997
Fax: 317-638-7031
Web site:

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