It's a Coal World

the overexploitation of coal and ways to make it sustainable

Why Coal is Needed

Coal is a natural resource that serves many different purposes worldwide. The three most significant uses of coal are for electricity generation, steel production, and cement manufacturing. With growing populations, many countries have relied on increasing the amount of coal used to generate electricity. In specific, China, India, USA, Russia, and Japan account for 76% of the total global consumption of coal. These countries generally turn to coal in order to meet energy needs because coal reserves are abundant, available locally, and generally easy and cheap to extract, as compared to the soaring prices of using oil/natural gas. However, if sustainable management of coal isn't implemented, there will be numerous long term environmental and social impacts.

Gallery and Articles

Negative Implications of Extracting Coal

The intricate process of extracting and mining coal is the origin of a wide array of negative environmental and social impacts. The effects of the issues that arise from mining coal are also being increasingly magnified due to the rise of the use of coal over the last thirteen years.

Coal plants considerably alter the water system:

o Contributes to the retracting of water being seen as a “renewable” resource because it is second to agriculture as being the largest domestic users of water in the US

o Poses health and environmental threats due to the pollution and discharge of waste water into previously healthy streams

o Water pollution due to runoff of waste coal called “glob” can pollute local drinking supplies as well as harm animals in the area

o Acid mine drainage (due to sulphur-bearing minerals) poses serious threats because acid run-off dissolves heavy metals into groundwater and surface water

Air pollution produced in the coal mining process:

o Coal mining emits particulate matter (sulphates, nitrates, ammonia, carbon, and mineral dust) into the atmosphere – has severe repercussions on human health as the particles lodge into the lungs

o Significant source of both nitrous oxides and sulphur oxides which are major contributors to the increased smog levels and acid rain deposition. Smog damages plant life and makes human health susceptible to diseases

o Acid rain from sulphur and nitrous oxides strips away soils of their nutrients

o Coal fired units account for 50% of the anthropogenic sources of mercury - settles in streams/water bodies and accumulates in the tissues of fish as well as seeps into the groundwater: infiltrates the water supply and the concentration of mercury gets magnified as it goes up the food chain

Leads to the destruction of terrestrial habitats:

o Coal mining (strip mining in particular) results in the loss/permanent alteration of land

o Clearcutting and deforestation at mining sites results in the loss of natural habitats for many species and reduces the biodiversity of an area that was previously abundant in diverse life

o Loss of agricultural land and degrade the quality of the land (soil erosion)

o Mountaintop removal mining annihilates the thousand year old natural gems (da mountains)

Citizens are essentially engulfed in a toxic cloud:

o Citizens that live inare in a close proximity to mining areas are plagued by higher chronic heart, respiratory, and kidney disease mortality

o Ex. Americans living near the Appalacians have significantly higher birth defects

o Widespread use of coal in China is the main contributor to the smog that covers the country and poor ventilation in homes worsens the problems

Destroys the livelihoods of communities:

o Specifically for surface mining, many citizens are forced to relocate and move from the houses they've lived in for years. Although they're rehabilitated, many times it's not up to par with their old homes.

o Noise pollution from blasts from nearby mining sites disturbs sleeping patterns and psychological health
o Mountaintop mining and the destruction of the mountains is an eyesore

The Future of Coal

Global use of coal has been increasing exponentially over the past 20 years and around 6.6 billion tonnes of hard coal and 1 billion tonnes of brown coal were used worldwide last year. If this trend continues, the reserves of coal will become depleted within the next 150 years.

In order to combat this, China, which uses 5x more energy than the U.S. and 12x more than Japan, has implemented it’s Eleventh Five-Year Plan in 2006. This plan calls for a 20% reduction in the energy use per unit of GDP by 2010. Reducing energy consumption would

CRC for Coal in Sustainable Development Sixteen Australian organisations, including major coal producers, electricity generators, the Australian Coal Association Research Program, four universities, the Queensland Government, and the CSIRO with Federal assistance has been set up and established a $60 million cooperative research centre (CRC).

An important thing to note is that the extraction of coal grows with a growing demand for energy. This is why in order to prevent the overexploitation of coal, the problem of overconsumption of energy should be tackled. There is enormous potential to reduce the demand for coal by promoting more efficient use of electricity and electricity production from renewable resources. However, while implementing dams, wind farms, and other technologies that harvest energy from natural resources is great, it is not feasible to put a wind mill behind every house. So in addition to putting up wind farms, investments should be made into restricting the use of energy by homeowners (the restrictions would keep in mind the amount of people in the household). Another thing that would be a good energy saver is to have every household having solar hot water. All these plans have the potential to reduce a nation’s energy needs by a significant amount, therefore less coal power plants/mines have to be created.

While reducing our use of coal, it is vital to incorporate mitigating measures to lessen the impact on both the environment and the people:

  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)
  • New technologies such as biotechnology, ICT and e-commerce
  • Gas, ground water, aquifer and subsidence management in mines

Australia's Fair Game for Coal

The World

US Coal Production and Asian Coal Consumption Worry Environmentalists by The World


Audition For Minetest Song(Mining Coal) by ShiftyCake