Coal mining

Coal: a traditional source of energy

uhli2.jpgCoal: one of the most significant fossil fuels, "combustible stone", rock of biological origin, "black gold" - in fact it is actually solar energy stored on a long-term basis by means of biological and geological processes. According to the experts it is solid caustobiolith (in Greek: kaustos=combustible, bios=life), therefore a mineral fuel in a solid state which was formed from accumulated dead vegetable matter and low life-form debris deposited in swamps.


Coal consists mainly of carbon and various quantities of other materials. According to the composition, mode of origin, age and energy yield we distinguish several basic types of coal.


Coal as a source of heat was utilized accidentally and occasionally by prehistoric man – archaeological survey has left evidence of this in the Ostrava region. However, the real significance of coal to civilisation became apparent as late as during the industrial revolution in the second half of the 18th century, following the invention of the steam engine, when it quickly became the basic fuel. During electrification its significance actually increased.


To this day, coal is the most important solid fuel and one of the most significant sources of electric energy. In the Czech Republic approximately one half of all electricity produced is made from coal. In the USA there is a similar situation, whereas on a world-wide scale the figure is 40%.


In spite of the recent falling from favour of this material, in the future the significance of coal in terms of energy will be even higher. The coal reserves are estimated to last for at least 200 to 300 more years, while in the case of oil it is a mere 40 to 50 years, and in the case of uranium it is roughly a century. Even today, there are technologies capable of converting coal to fluid or gaseous environmentally friendly fuels with all the advantages of oil products, while free of their disadvantages, in particular their negative environmental impact. Scientists have been working hard on making these processes increasingly sophisticated and efficient.


However, coal can be utilized in other ways too. Besides being refined to coke, it has been used in the gas, steel and chemical industries. In the chemical industry in particular the demand for coal will rise again due to the increased oil prices.


Furthermore, in the Ostrava-Karviná district the by-product of mining is methane. The gas which was miners’ arch enemy from time immemorial, has become significant as a pure and highly calorific fuel. It is also notable that mine waters are the basis of balneology in the Ostrava region.