The Oklahoma Department of Mines Coal Division is dedicated to protecting the environment of the State of Oklahoma, to protecting the health and safety of the miner and to protecting the life, health, and property of citizens who are affected by mining or mining activities through the enforcement of state mining and reclamation laws. The Coal Division accomplishes this by enforcing the administrative law found in Oklahoma Administrative Code 460 (OAC).
Before commencement of coal mining operations, a mining and reclamation permit must be obtained from the Oklahoma Department of Mines Coal Division. A coal permit is issued when the mine operator submits and acceptable application and posts adequate bond to cover reclamation costs, should it be necessary for a third party to complete the reclamation process. The operator's permit application must include the requirements for legal and financial compliance, provision for safeguarding environmental resources, and detailed operation and reclamation plan. Before disturbing the site, the employees of the coal mining operation must be trained and certified in accordance with state and federal safety regulations. Mining practices, reclamation, and health and safety procedures are monitored on a regular basis by the Departments' field inspectors.
COAL DIVISION PERSONNEL
The Oklahoma Department of Mines Coal Division consists of three basic subdivisions comprised of Technical Services, Permitting, and Inspection and Enforcement. Technical Services and Permitting are located in Oklahoma City. Inspection and Enforcement staff are located in the field offices in Wagoner.
The Coal Division is dedicated to protecting the environment and citizens of the State of Oklahoma and accomplishes this goal by:
- Reviewing permit applications, revisions, and field amendments for completeness, technical adequacy, and bonding requirements identified in the permitting phase;
- Conducting complete and partial inspections on coal permits as required by state and federal rules and regulations and the specific requirements of the approved permit such that non-compliance items are identified and appropriate abatement measures implemented;
- Conducting annual and mid-term permit reviews in compliance with statutes and regulations;
- Conducting bond release inspections in compliance with statutes and regulations;
- Conducting citizen complaint inspections in compliance with statutes and regulations;
- Gathering evidence and testifying at hearings as required by statute and regulations;
- Conducting Student Outreach Programs at local area schools to provide students and teachers of Oklahoma with a better understanding of the mining process in Oklahoma;
- Receiving on-going training and information concerning current technical advances and trends;
- Permitting and inspection operations for Coal Combustion By-Products (Fly Ash) Reclamation Program.
After the coal mining permit is issued the first thing the mining company does is mark the permit boundaries and put up a mine identification sign. Then the company builds sediment ponds and berms. This is done to control all surface drainage, so that none leases the permit area without first passing through a sedimentation pond. Sedimentation ponds allow sediment to settle out of the surface water before the water is discharged off the disturbed area.
The next step in the mining process involves the removal of topsoil. The topsoil is removed in a separate layer, then stockpiled and protected for later use. Once the topsoil and any subsoil is removed, the company will begin digging a box-shaped pit, removing the remaining material above the coal - the overburden or spoil.
Generally the overburden must be blasted in order to be removed. The mining company must follow an approved blasting plan that limits ground vibration and air blast to safe levels. Seismographs are used to monitor each blast and the blasting records are kept by the company for public or Department review. The overburden from the first pit is stockpiled in an approved location on the permit area. After the overburden is removed, then the coal is removed and taken to a coal processing area on the permit called a coal pad. Once the coal is on the coal pad, then it is crushed to a certain size and stockpiled. Then the coal is loaded, generally onto trucks, to be hauled to the purchaser.
Once the coal is removed from the first pit, then overburden from the next pit is used to fill the previous pit. This process goes on until all the coal on the permit is mined, or all coal that is economically feasible to mine is mined. At the end of the coal removal process, the stockpiled overburden from the first pit is used to fill the last pit.
If the owner of the land wants the final pit to be left open as a large water impoundment, the company can request permission from the Department to do so. This impoundment must fill with water and be suitable for the approved post-mining land-use.
Once all pits are backfilled, the area is graded so that the contours of the land match the pre-mining contours of as much as possible. Then the topsoil is replaced evenly over the disturbed area. After the topsoil is re-spread, it is seeded or sprigged with the approved vegetation and mulched to help prevent erosion until the vegetation is reestablished. Sometimes the landowner desires the land to be reclaimed with trees or wildlife plantings. After the area is reseeded or sprigged, the company must maintain the area for a minimum of five years before receiving final bond release. The land is then returned to the landowner's control.
Phase I Bond Release
After mining is completed on any increment or identifiable unit of a mine, the mine operator may apply for a Phase I Bond Release. This is the first of three phases in which the performance or reclamation bond monies are released to the operator. Typically, this release is sought after all backfilling and grading has been completed on the increment or identifiable unit. The backfilling and grading must be done to achieve approximate original contour (AOC). The removal of all support facilities (unless otherwise approved in the permit) must be done prior to Phase I bond release. These facilities include coal pads, office and maintenance areas and roads. The operator can get the maximum amount of the bond release allowed under Phase I if, in addition to the above requirements, the topsoil has been replaced to the depth specified in the approved permit. Permanent structures must be in place at this time. Temporary structures that are needed for sediment control must be in place and maintained at the time of Phase I approval. Theses temporary structures for sediment control must remain until the drainage area controlled by them has attained Phase II vegetation standards.
Phase II Bond Release
The second of the three phases in which the performance or reclamation bond monies are released to the operator is known as Phase II. Typically this release is sought after re-vegetation standards have been met on an increment or identifiable unit of a mine. Topsoil depths should be verified at this time if they were not verified during the Phase I bond release. All permanent vegetation species, including grasses, trees, and shrubs must have been planted on the site in accordance with the approved permit and land uses. Success of the re-vegetation must be demonstrated by methods either described in the permit or by approved sampling procedures described by the Department. At a minimum, the area to be released must not be contributing suspended solids or acid drainage to stream flow or runoff outside the permit area in excess of the standards set forth in the regulations. The Department will re-calculate the required bond to remain posted and release the bond monies exceeding this amount.
Phase III Bond Release
The third and final of the three phases in which the performance or reclamation bond monies are released to the operator is known as Phase III. Typically this release is sought after the fifth full year of bond liability has passed. This can be achieved five years after the last augmented seeding of an increment or identifiable unit of a mine. Since this is the final release of liability on an area, all post-mining land uses must match those specified in the approved permit and meet all requirements of the regulations. Re-vegetation success must be demonstrated in a similar manner as Phase II. In addition to ground cover, productivity must be demonstrated according to the approved post-mining land use. All temporary structures must be removed before Phase III. Permanent structures must be stable and water impoundments must hold a stable water level. Discharges from approved impoundments shall not degrade the quality of receiving waters.
After all criteria for Phase III are met, all bond monies are released and the land is returned to the control of the landowner.
(Click the link above for the Bond Release guidelines referenced in the regulations)
Oklahoma's coal production decreased in 2016 at 670,610 tons compared to 796,859 tons in 2015. Oklahoma coal production has declined from it's peak production of 5.73 million tons in 1981 to its lowest production this year at 670,610 tons. Major in-state use of Oklahoma coal has been by the cement and lime industries and the use of coal at the Applied Energy Services Cogeneration Plant near Shady Point, Oklahoma. Until recent years, the major consumption of Oklahoma coal had been by out-of-state utilities. There is potential for Oklahoma's coal resources to provide the basis for economic growth; only the apex of coal resources has been exploited.
Oklahoma fuel resources include coal, oil, and natural gas. Coal mining is regulated by the Oklahoma Department of Mines and is discussed below. Oil and natural gas production are regulated by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and are not discussed in this report.
Identified coal resources are present in an area of approximately 8,000 square miles in 20 counties in eastern Oklahoma. The area is within the southern part of the Western Region of the Interior Coal Province of the United States. The coal beds are of Middle and Late Pennsylvanian age, 0.8-10 ft. thick, 0.4-6.5% in sulfur content, coking or non-coking, contain 11,400-15,000 Btu/lb, and are low (2-7%) in inherent moisture. Oklahoma contains the most significant deposits of bituminous coal between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains.
|Oklahoma Coal Production Information (Tons Produced)||2016|
|Counties/Mine Sites/Tons/Type of Coal||2016|
Phoenix 4287 Most Mine 143,286 tons - Croweburg
Farrell-Cooper 4280 Liberty #7 829 tons - Stigler
Farrell-Cooper 4275F Bull Hill 126,320 tons - Hartshorne
GCI, Inc. 4243F Pollyanna #8 398,800 tons - Hartshorne
Joshua Coal 4238 Metropolis 1,375 tons - Eram
|Coal Permit Activities||2016|
|Permits on Inspectable Units List||55|
|Inspections Conducted ||543|
|Violations Issued (NOVs/Cos)||22|
|Acreage Released (Phase III Bond Release Approvals)||1,469|
Although the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System is available for barging coal to international ports, most coal production is shipped by truck or rail. As of January 1, 2007, 8.1 billion short tons of remaining coal resources have been identified; 76% are in the Arkoma basin and 24% are in the northeast Oklahoma shelf area. About 41% of the state's coal resources are low and medium-volatile bituminous in rank and are present in the Arkoma basin. Four mining companies produced 670,610 tons of coal at five mines in four counties in 2016. The coal was used in one power plant and several lime and and cement kilns in the state during 2016.
The bituminous coals of the state are low volatile in northern LeFlore County; medium volatile in the northern LeFlore, Sequoyah, and most of Haskell Counties; high volatile A and B in Craig and Nowata Counties, parts of Haskell County, and in most of the remaining coal-bearing counties; and high volatile C in Coal and Pittsburg Counties.
The commercial coalbeds in the Northeast Oklahoma Shelf area are 0.8-5.0 feet thick, average 2.0 feet thick, dip westward from 1/2 degree to 2 degrees, and contain more than 3 percent sulfur by weight with the exception of the low-sulfur Croweburg and Secor coals. The coalbeds in the Arkoma Basin area are 1-10 feet thick and occur in eroded anticlines and synclines that trend northeastward. The coals crop out mostly along the sides of these folded and faulted structures, and their dip ranges from 3 degrees to nearly vertical.
The face cleat trend is northwestward in the coal beds of the Shelf and the Basin. In the Arkoma Basin, coals that exhibit steep dips (18 degrees to 65 degrees) commonly were mined before 1960. From 1960 to 1974, no mines were developed in steeply dipping coalbeds because of cost. The Arab oil embargo of 1973 resulted in increases in demand and prices for coal. Thus from 1974 to 1984, seven surface mines were developed in steeply dipping coalbeds in the Arkoma Basin, and they produced coking and metallurgical coal in which the sulfur content was only 1%. Coal from steeply dipping beds has not been mined since 1984 because of the high cost. Of the remaining coal resources in the state, 76% are in the Arkoma Basin and 24% are in the Shelf area. The weighted average sulfur content of the total remaining coal resources is 2.3%.
Remaining Identified (Bituminous) Coal Resources in Oklahoma
January 1, 2007
Short Tons (thousands)
Approximately 680 million tons of Oklahoma's remaining coal resources were estimated (Friedman, 1974) as strippable from beneath 100 feet or less of overburden, in beds 12 inches or more in thickness. Strippable coal resources were reported in, Atoka, Coal, Craig, Creek, Haskell, Latimer, LeFlore, Mayes, McIntosh, Muskogee, Nowata, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Pittsburg, Rogers, Sequoyah, Tulsa, Wagoner, and Washington Counties in 25 different coalbeds. The Demonstrated Reserve Base (DRB) shows 342 million tons as strippable (U.S. Department of Energy, 1996).
In 1986, the major use of Oklahoma coal was by out-of-state electric power generating plants, and the major use of Oklahoma coal in Oklahoma was in cement and lime kilns, at a paper plant, and for process heat at an auto assembly plant. In 1987, however, state law required blending 10% of the BTU value of total non-Oklahoma (Wyoming) coal consumed at Oklahoma power plants with Oklahoma coal. Consequently, a significant change took place in the distribution of Oklahoma coals by the end use. By 1991, more than 50% of Oklahoma coal production was shipped to Oklahoma electric power plants. Although the 1987 "10%" law was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in January 1992, the 1991 Oklahoma coal production increased 16% from 1990.
This is explained by a shift in shipments of Oklahoma coal in 1991 to the AES Shady Point fluidized-bed combustion power plant in LeFlore County. Nevertheless, about 18 million tons of low-sulfur (0.4%) subbituminous Wyoming coal was shipped to Oklahoma public utilities in 1997. Oklahoma power plants rank fourth among the states consuming coal imported from Wyoming. Cumulative coal production in Oklahoma (1873-2015) is 299 million tons.
A total of 25 named bituminous coal beds are present and have been mined in eastern Oklahoma. Most past production has been from the Hartshorne, Lower Hartshorne, McAlester, and Croweburg Coals, which were mined by underground methods. Coal rank, generalized for all coals at or near the surface, ranges from high-volatile bituminous in the northeast Oklahoma shelf and western Arkoma Basin to medium-volatile bituminous and low-volatile bituminous in the eastern Arkoma Basin in Oklahoma. Rank increases from west to east and with depth in the Arkoma Basin, attaining semianthracite in Arkansas.
At the southern edge of the coal region in Oklahoma, the Hartshorne Coal commonly is split into two beds by shale and sandstone that are 1 to 100 feet thick. The two beds are called the Upper and Lower Hartshorne Coals, and they have been extensively mined. North of the position of the long axis of the Arkoma Basin, the Hartshorne Coal is not split but is a single bed 1 to 7 feet thick containing, in most places, a persistent black shale or mudstone parting about 1 to 5 inches thick. Core drilling and successful efforts at underground mine development since 1969 have demonstrated significant underground coal resources in the Hartshorne Coal in areas in Haskell and LeFlore Counties, where it is 3 to 7 feet thick, of low- or medium-volatile bituminous rank, and an excellent coking coal. In 2016, two mining companies produced 525,120 tons of Hartshorne coal. 78% of Oklahoma's coal production was Hartshorne Coal.
LOWER HARTSHORNE COAL
Mined in the Arkoma Basin mostly for metallurgical coke manufacture for 115 years, the Lower Hartshorne Coal has been shipped to electric power plants since 1985. Hundreds of underground mines, many of them referred to as no more than "dog holes", have been developed along the 120 miles of outcrop of the Lower Hartshorne Coal since 1872, at which time a railroad first connected McAlester, Pittsburg County, with Arkansas, and thus with the other states. The Lower Hartshorne Coal is 0.8 to 7.0 feet thick, averaging 4 feet in underground mines. The railroads used this premium-grade coal for steam, but historically the coal was shipped to blast furnaces in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Japan. The Lower Hartshorne Coalbed contains at least 1,541,000 tons of remaining coal resources (Friedman, 1974), and it also contains coalbed methane resources.
UPPER HARTSHORNE COAL
The Upper Hartshorne Coal was once extensively mined at outcrops on the flanks of anticlines in LeFlore, Haskell, Latimer, and Pittsburg Counties. It is 2 to 4 feet thick and is low- or medium-volatile bituminous in rank in the east end of the Arkoma Basin and high-volatile in the west end. The Upper Hartshorne Coalbed contains 663 million tons of remaining coal resources (Friedman, 1974), and it also contains coalbed methane resrouces.
The McAlester Coalbed has been extensively mined by underground methods at McAlester in central Pittsburg County and in southeastern Coal County. Throughout the Arkoma Basin, the McAlester Coalbed is 1.5 to 5.0 feet thick and mostly high-volatile bituminous in rank. The coal is thickest in Coal and Pittsburg Counties. It is suitable for use in electric power generation, for blending with higher rank coal for coke manufacture, in cement and lime manufacture, and it is suitable for gasification and liquefaction conversion processes. The McAlester Coal contains 1,012,000 tons of remaining resources (Friedman, 1974), and it contains significant coalbed methane resources in places where it is 3 to 5 feet thick.
Correlated with the McAlester Coal (Friedman, 1978), the Stigler Coal has been mined historically to depths of 30 to 45 feet by surface methods in Haskell, LeFlore, Muskogee and Sequoyah Counties. The Stigler Coal was mined to 100 feet in Sequoyah County and to 140 feet in Haskell County. Mostly of low- and medium-volatile bituminous rank, the low-sulfur (0.5 to 1.0%) Stigler coal has been used in coke manufacture in U.S. and overseas markets. In 1978-1979, 11 companies operated surface mines in this high BTU (13,000 - 14,500) coal, where it is 10. to 2.7 feet thick. This premium grade coal is overlain by 15 to 110 feet of medium- and dark-gray mudstone, the Stigler Rider Coal (correlated with the Upper McAlester Coal of Latimer, Pittsburg and Coal Counties), one sandstone bed, and in places, Quaternary silt and sand. The Stigler Coalbed contains 533 million tons of remaining resources (Friedman, 1974). One mining company produced 829 tons of Stigler Coal.
The Cavanal Coal, moderate in ash and high in sulfur content, is of medium-volatile bituminous rank and crops out on the synclinal flanks of Cavanal Mountain in LeFlore County (Knechtel, 1949). Of high-volatile bituminous rank, it was mapped in Pittsburg County (Hendricks, 1937). In 1976, it was mined at a surface operation on the north side of Cavanal Mountain, where it is 2 feet thick and overlain by 35 feet of blue-gray shale that is overlain by sandstone. Total remaining resources in the Cavanal Coal in the Arkoma Basin are 159 million tons (Friedman, 1974). About 60 feet below the Cavanal Coal, the Lower Cavanal Coal, 2.0 to 2.2 feet thick, was mined by surface and underground methods in LeFlore County in 1942-43 (Knechtel, 1949). This medium-volatile bituminous coal contains undetermined resources.
LOWER WITTEVILLE COAL
The Lower Witteville Coal is widely distributed in the Arkoma Basin. In the first half of the twentieth century, underground mines produced 522,000 tons of this coal from Cavanal Mountain, LeFlore County, where it is 3 to 4 feet thick and contains thin shale partings. The Lower Witteville may correlate with the Drywood Coal in the Savanna Formation of the Northeast Shelf area (Friedman, 1982), or with the unnamed coal that occurs in a shale interval within the Bluejacket sandstone member of the Boggy Formation (Hemish, 1994). It is medium-volatile bituminous in rank, and thus it probably contains coalbed methane resources. The Lower Witteville Coal contains 52 million tons of identified coal resources in LeFlore County (Friedman, 1974).
A high-sulfur, high-volatile bituminous coal, the Rowe is 0.8 to 3.0 feet thick in Craig, Mayes, Muskogee, Rogers and Wagoner Counties. The remaining resources in the Rowe Coal are 25 million tons (Hemish, 1986, 1989). The Rowe Coal may be suitable for gasification and liquefaction conversion processes.
The Secor Coal in the Boggy Formation contains a minimum of 446 million tons of identified coal resources (Friedman, 1974). Recent exploration and mining indicates that additional millions of tons of this coal are present in LeFlore County. The Secor Coalbed is 1.5 to 4.3 feet thick, moderately brightly banded and medium-to-high-volatile bituminous in rank. High in ash and sulfur content, it contains 12,000 to 14,000 BTU/lb. The coal has been considered of marginal economic value for most markets. Discovery of a rare occurrence of a low-sulfur (1% or less) deposit of the Secor Coal in McIntosh and Wagoner Counties (Friedman, 1978) resulted in 3.2 million tons of production of this rare coal from 10 stip mines from 1978-1990.
Correlated from outcrops and drilling data in southeastern Kansas (Friedman, 1974), the Weir-Pittsburg Coal contains 496 million tons of identified coal resources in the Northeaster Oklahoma Shelf. Mined by surface methods in Craig, Mayes, Rogers, and Wagoner Counties, the Weir-Pittsburg Coal is 1.1 to 3.0 feet thick and is overlain by 20 to 30 feet of gray shale that in some places contains marine invertebrate fossils. This coal is high in sulfur (more than 3%) and ash (more than 12%). No production has been reported from this coalbed since 1980 because its run-of+mine condition has been marginal economic value.
MINERAL COAL & MORRIS COAL
The Mineral is a high-volatile bituminous coal, 1.2 to 2.7 feet thick, averaging 1.8 feet in Craig, Nowata, Rogers, Tulsa, and Wagoner Counties. The Mineral Coal is overlain by a hard, thin, impure limestone and gray shale in most places in Craig County. Dunham and Trumbull (1955) described the Morris Coal as 7 to 30 inches thick, averaging 16 inches in the Henryetta Mining District. About 30 million short tons of identified resources of Morris Coal have been determined (Friedman, 1974). Although adverse geologic and mining conditions are present in the faulted area north of Morris, additional resources and recoverable reserves of Morris Coal undoubtedly are present in other places in Okmulgee County. Physical, chemical, petrographic and stratigraphic characteristics of the Morris Coal strongly indicate it's correlation with the Mineral Coal of the Northern Shelf area (and of Kansas and Missouri)(Friedman, 1974, 1982). The Eram Coal in Okmulgee County is also correlated with the Mineral Coal (Hemish, 1988). The Mineral Coal (and equivalent coalbeds) contains 198 million tons of identified coal resources in Craig, Nowata, Okmulgee, Rogers, Tulsa, and Wagoner Counties (Hemish, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1994).
The Croweburg has been one of three leading coals produced in Oklahoma, because it contains 1% or less sulfur and a Free Swelling Index (FSI) of 6 or more in most of the area of its distribution in the Northeasten Oklahoma Shelf. A total of 681 million tons of identified remaining resources of the Croweburg Coal has been reported (Hemish, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1994) as present in Oklahoma. The Croweburg has been known as the Henryetta Coal, the Broken Arrow Coal, and the "Sequoyah" Coal (Oakes, 1944). In 2016, 21% of Oklahoma's coal production was Croweburg Coal. One active mine site in Northeastern Oklahoma produced 143,286 tons of Croweburg Coal.
IRON POST COAL
Fort Scott Coal is also known as Iron Post Coal. The Iron Post Coal is the uppermost commercial coal in the Senora Formation. It crops out across Craig, Nowata, and Rogers Counties in an irregular line roughly parallel to the outcrop line of the Croweburg Coal. The Iron Post Coal lies about 30 to 50 feet above the Verdigris Limestone and is overlain by a few inches to a few feet of black and gray shale. The shale is overlain in turn by a limestone known as Breezy Hill. It has a high BTU value that averages about 13,000. It averages about 12 inches in thickness, and has an average sulfur content of about 3.5%. In 2016, there were no mines sites producing Iron Post Coal.
The Oklahoma Department of Mines Coal Division is dedicated to customer service. The Department receives citizen complaints in various forms. We receive oral complaints, written complaints, bond release objections, etc. The Department prides itself on responding to each complaint in a prompt and courteous manner.