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More than 40 years ago, in a paper entitled “Coal Geology: An Opportunity for Research and Study,” the preeminent American coal geologist of this century, Gilbert H. Cady, described coal geology in the following cogent terms:

Coal geology may be conveniently partitioned into those fields of knowledge and inquiry that concern the geology of the coal beds and those that concern the geology of the coal material itself. The geology of the coal beds consists of the knowledge relating to the discovery and delineation of coal resources, the stratigraphic and structural conditions, and the geologic and economic conditions that affect the mining operation. The geology of the coal material, on the other hand, consists of knowledge relating to the nature and origin of its physical heterogeneity in composition and properties, of its variations in chemical composition and properties, and of those geological conditions whereby these several variations were produced (Cady, 1949, p. 2).

Implicit in equating coal geology with a body of knowledge is the concept that once the natural history of coal beds is understood, we will have the ability to more accurately predict the characteristics and the technologic behavior (coal quality) of coal.

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