Virginia’s coal miners reported production of 11.3 million short tons of bituminous coal in 20211, up about 15 percent from the production reported in 2020. Underground mining accounted for about 71 percent of Virginia’s coal output. Virginia's production ranked 12th highest in the nation out of 21 coal-producing states. The estimated value of coal produced in 2021 is $1.3 billion.
Coal production and value in Virginia
1Coal production is reported in annual tonnage reports to Virginia Energy and may differ from the production figures reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). For 2021, the EIA preliminary estimate of Virginia's production is 10.8 million short tons.
Coal deposits occur in three main regions in Virginia: the Southwest Virginia Coalfield, Valley Coalfields, and the Eastern Coalfields.
In the southwestern region of the state, the Southwest Virginia Coalfield contains extensive deposits of low- to medium-volatile bituminous coal hosted by Pennsylvanian-age (about 299 to 323 million years old) sedimentary rocks (Nolde, 1994).
Belt line at Deep Mine 41, Dickenson County
The Valley Coalfields include eleven distinct areas in the Valley and Ridge geologic province containing coals that range from medium-volatile bituminous to semi-anthracite in rank (Brown and others, 1952; Campbell and others, 1925). These coal deposits are hosted by sedimentary rocks of Early Mississippian age (about 323 to 360 million years old).
Locations of coal-producing regions in Virginia.
The coal mined in the Southwest Virginia Coalfield is well suited for a variety of primary uses including electricity generation (steam coal), manufacturing coke (metallurgical coal), and supplying other industrial (non-coke), commercial and institutional users. Coal is delivered mainly by rail and truck to major electrical utility generating plants and steel-manufacturing facilities located in the Eastern and Midwestern United States. Coal is also transported by rail to Hampton Roads, Virginia, the largest coal export terminal in the United States, where it is shipped to international consumers.
Year of first production in Virginia: 1748
Location of first production: Richmond area
Number of operations producing coal in Virginia: 152
Counties in Virginia where coal is currently produced: Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell, Lee, Tazewell, Wise
Number of companies: 65
Quantity produced in 2021: 11.3 million short tons
Estimated market value: $1.3 billion
Total cumulative production: 2.72 billion short tons
ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) Standard D388-12, 2012, Standard classification of coals by rank: ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, DOI 10.1520/D0388-12
Bartholomew, M.J., and Brown, K.L., 1992, The Valley Coalfield (Mississippian Age) in Montgomery and Pulaski Counties, Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 124, 33 p.
Bates, R.L., and Jackson, J.A., eds., 1987, Glossary of Geology: The American Geological Institute, Alexandria, VA, 3rd ed.
Brown, A., Berryhill, H. L., Jr., Taylor, D. A., and Trumbull, J. V. A., 1952, Coal resources of Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 171, 57 p.
Campbell, M.R., and others, 1925, The valley coal fields of Virginia: Virginia Geological Survey Bulletin 25, 322 p.
Gilmer, A.K., Enomoto, C.B., Lovett, J.A., and Spears, D.B., 2005, Mineral and fossil fuel production in Virginia (1999-2003): Virginia Division of Mineral Resource Open File Report 05-04, 77 p.
Goodwin, B.K., Ramsey, K.W., and Wilkes, G.P., 1986, Guidebook to the geology of the Richmond, Farmville, Briery Creek and Roanoke Creek basins, Virginia: 18th Annual Meeting of the Virginia Geological Field Conference, October 18-18, 1986, 75 p.
Le Van, D.C., 1990, Energy resources and facilities in Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 100, map, scale 1:500,000.
Lovett, J.A., and Hostettler, K.A., 2016, Coal, in Bailey, C.M., Sherwood, W.C., Eaton, L.S., and Powars, D.S., (eds.), The Geology of Virginia: Virginia Museum of Natural History Special Publication 18, p. 443-461.
Nolde, J.E., 1994, Devonian to Pennsylvanian stratigraphy and coal beds of the Appalachian Plateaus province, in Geology and mineral resources of the Southwest Virginia Coalfield: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 131, p. 1-85.
Nolde, J.E., Whitlock, W.W., Lovett, J.A., Henika, W.S., 1994, Geology and mineral resources of the Southwest Virginia Coalfield: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 131, CD-ROM containing PDF files of original, 145 p., six plates showing stratigraphic sections (digital reprint 2005).
Whisonant, R.C., 2000, Geology and history of the Confederate coal mines in Montgomery County, Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Virginia Minerals, v. 46, no. 1, 8 p.
Wilkes, G.P., 1988, Mining history of the Richmond coalfield of Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 85, 51 p.
Wilkes, G.P., Bragg, L. J., Hostettler, K.K., Oman, C.L., and Coleman, S.L., 1992, Coal sample analyses from the southwest Virginia coalfield: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 122, 431 p.
Other Useful Links:
Lovett, J.A., and Hostettler, K.K., 2008, Virginia coal quality database: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Open File Report 08-04