Commercial coal deposits ranging in rank from lignite to anthracite are present in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela. Some of the bituminous coal is weakly coking. The commercial deposits are of Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Tertiary ages, except those in Brazil, which are of Pennsylvanian and Permian ages. Most coal beds are less than 3 m thick, but some are as much as 5 to 8 m thick. Much of the coal in Brazil and Mexico occurs in flat-lying or gently dipping rocks. In the other countries, the coal beds commonly are folded and faulted and at places are intruded by igneous rocks associated with the Andean uplift.
Rough estimates based on available data indicate that the largest coal resources, about 10 billion metric tons, are in Columbia. Resources in Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, and Chile are estimated at more than 1 billion metric tons for each country, and in Argentina and Peru, resources amount to more than 250 million metric tons for each country. Detailed geologic investigations are needed to provide a basis for more meaningful estimates.
During 1973, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico each produced more than 3 million metric tons, dominantly of bituminous coal. Imported coal consisted almost entirely of low-volatile bituminous coal, which was blended with domestic coal to manufacture coke. Very little coal was exported.