Brune provides insight into coal mining job market

With coal still accounting for 30 percent of electricity generated in the U.S., this resource is by no means obsolete in the national energy market. The Washington Post explores the discrepancies that exist between employment and production of mines of the West vs. mines of the East. Jürgen Brune, professor of Mining Engineering at Mines, explains how the geology of the Appalachian region prevents these mines from being as productive as the massive mines of the West. 

From the story:

The 16 mines in the Powder River Basin produce 45 percent of the country’s coal, but only employ 10 percent of coal-mine workers.

Appalachian mines employ 56 percent of coal workers, but produce 24 percent of the coal.

Appalachian coal mines have a size problem.

The problem for Appalachia is that when the market is squeezed, its mines often can’t produce as much as the vast strip mines out west, where coal is easier to access and the machines that harvest it can be as big as engineers can build.  

“It’s an economy of scale,” said Jürgen Brune, professor of mining engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. “Smaller spaces require smaller equipment, and that reduces the productivity and the amount of coal you can get with the same number of miners.”