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Abstract

This chapter is an updated synthesis of information on an enormous, largely untapped natural resource—Alaskan coal. Herein we discuss the major fields as well as the smaller occurrences in the state, their geologic setting, depositional history, and, where known, the rank and chemistry of the coal and the size of the resources. Physiographic terminology is from Wahrhaftig (1965; this volume, Plate 2). Major basins of Alaska are delineated and discussed by Kirschner (this volume, Chapter 14 and Plate 7). Geographic or physiographic features referred to in this chapter that are not shown on the accompanying figures may be found in Plate 2 of this volume; geologic features not shown on the figures may be found in Plate 1 (Beikman, this volume).

Coal in Alaska was used by Inuit and Indian cultures before the advent of European explorers. The Beechy expedition of 1826-1827 reported the occurrence of coal in Alaska (Huish, 1836), and whaling ships mined coal from near Cape Beaufort north of the Arctic Circle before the turn of the twentieth century (Conwell and Triplehorn, 1976). The first coal mine, operated by the Russians at Port Graham on the southwest tip of the Kenai Peninsula, opened in 1855 and closed in 1867 (Martin, 1915) after the United States took possession of the Alaska Territory. Many mines were active after 1931, when Congress authorized the building of the Alaska Railroad, which created a market and transportation necessary for large-scale coal production. The first coal lease sale in the state in more

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