Trends in US Coal Production

The U.S. coal economy underwent significant changes during the late twentieth century in terms of where and how coal was produced. Overall production increased after 1960 in eastern coal mines, with another jump occurring in western mines after 1970. Mining techniques also shifted from underground to surface mining. Despite rising levels of production into the early years of the twenty-first century, popular discourse surrounding coal is often centered on a story of decline brought about by environmental regulations. What do these graphs tell us about the coal industry during the twentieth century? How do the figures presented in these graphs compare to stories you may have heard in the news or other popular discourse about the United States’ coal industry?

Teaching Unit:

Late 20th Century Coal Mining