Colorado coal mine equipment

Coal is a sedimentary rock that occurs naturally in seams or beds within rock strata. Coal has been mined in Colorado since 1859 and is primarily used for electricity production. In 2013, the Energy Information Administration reports that the economically recoverable reserves of coal at producing mines was 371 million short tons, representing 1.9% of the recoverable coal reserves in the country.

According to the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety’s Coal Detail Report, in 2016:

  • Nearly 13 million short tons were produced in Colorado.
  • Typically, half of Colorado's coal is exported out of the state.
  • 62% of Colorado’s produced coal was exported for sale to other states and countries.

Colorado’s coal is generally characterized as cleaner-burning as compared with coal produced in the eastern United States, due to its high heat content and moderate amounts of sulfur, ash and mercury. However, any coal combustion releases emissions, including greenhouse gases, that make it subject to state and federal regulations.

Coal production in Colorado has declined 64% since 2005 for a variety of reasons, including operational changes in mines, compliance with regulations, and competition with natural gas for baseload electricity generation. However, coal continues to generate more than 60% of Colorado’s electricity and currently provides the baseload fuel source for most of the state’s electrical needs. In 2016, coal was used to produce electricity at 9 power plants operated by Colorado Springs Utilities, Xcel Energy, Platte River Power Authority, and Tri-State G&T.