Coal mining is a highly mechanized, capital-intensive industry which is widespread throughout the world. The major coal-producing nations, in order of production, are China, the United States, India, South Africa, Australia, and the Russian Federation. Proven recoverable coal reserves of coal, including lignite, in order of abundance, include the United States, the Russian Federation, China, Australia, India, Germany, and South Africa. In the United States, the State of Wyoming is the largest producer of coal. Australia is the largest exporter of steam and coking coal.
Coal mining is accomplished by both surface and underground methods, with the former being the most prevalent (Lindbergh and Provorse, 1977; Kennedy, 1990; and Hartman, 1992). New technology is playing a major role in the steady increase of the productivity of coal miners throughout the world. Larger and more efficient equipment has reduced the labor-intensive nature of mining operations worldwide, particularly in the more developed nations (Orlemann, 1995).