Forty percent of the world's electricity comes from coal. Though under a great deal of scrutiny over the past few decades, coal is still a multi-billion-dollar industry that employs millions of people across the world.
China is the world's largest producer and consumer of coal in the world. It has the third largest reserves, behind Russia and the United States. The vast majority of China's coal is located in the northern regions, particularly in the Shanxi province. The coal from the southern regions tends to be contaminated with ash and sulfur, making it unusable. It is estimated that China's coal reserves measure in at 114.5 gigatons, or 13.5 percent of the world's coal.
The United States
The United States has the world's largest deposits of coal, an estimated 242.6 gigatons or 28.6 percent of the world's coal. The United States has a long history of coal mining and has the greatest amount of anthracite coal as well. A region known simply as "The Coal Region" is located in northeastern Pennsylvania. Schuylkill County, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton are all major coal producers with a long history in the industry. West Virginia and parts of western Pennsylvania are also considered to be coal country. Today, most of the coal mined in the United States is in Wyoming's Powder River Basin. The Black Thunder Coal Mine, near Gillette Wyoming, is the largest coal mine in the United States and producers more coal per year than most states. There are also vast fields of bituminous coal throughout the midwest.
Russia is the fifth largest producer of coal but has the second largest reserve, at 157 gigatons or 18.5 percent of the world's coal. Most of this coal is in or near Siberia. These great coal deposits directly contributed to the boom of the Russian steel industry.
Eastern Australia, particularly the Bowen Basin in Queensland and The Hunter Valley in New South Wales, place Australia with the fourth greatest coal deposits in the world, at 76.5 gigatons of coal. The country produces both brown (lignite) and black (bituminous) coal, which are less valuable and useful than anthracite.
The coal industry used to be prominent in countries like Great Britain. The growth of natural gas use has made most of them obsolete in recent years. Germany, Poland and Ukraine still rely heavily on coal for electricity. The general trend for most European nations, however, is for the phase-out of the coal industry due to environmental concerns.