Link to U.S. Geological Survey home page

U.S. Geological Survey
Open-File Report 02-489
Online Only
Version 1.0

Chemical and Mineralogical Analyses of Coal-Bearing Strata in the Appalachian Basin

By Frank T. Dulong, Nick Fedorko, John J. Renton, and C. Blaine Cecil


Past, present, and future coal mining in the Appalachian basin has caused, now causes, and will continue to cause changes in hydrologic conditions that result in oxidation and dissolution of minerals in coal and coal-bearing strata. Once mines are closed and abandoned, the oxidation and dissolution of minerals in coal-bearing strata often results in contaminated mine drainage (CMD). CMD may develop when closed water-filled underground mines overflow to the surface through leakages in mine seals, through fractures induced by mining, or through natural fractures. In contrast to underground mines, CMD develops after closure of surfaces mines when the ground and surface water that infiltrates and percolates through materials disturbed by mining and reclamation subsequently discharges to the surface and into surface streams.

The degree of development of CMD is highly dependent on the geologic history of coal-bearing strata that have undergone disturbance by mining. The geologic history controls the chemical and mineralogical composition of coal and coal-bearing strata (Cecil and others, 1985) and the geologic history is a primary control on pre-mining and post-mining hydrology. Although mining-related environmental degradation of streams occurs throughout the coal fields in the Appalachian basin, CMD is most acute in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, and northern West Virginia (the northern coal field of this report) where mining primarily occurs in upper Middle and Upper Pennsylvanian strata. It is in upper Middle and Upper Pennsylvanian strata where the oxidation of pyrite results in the generation of sulfuric acid, which leads to acidic mine drainage and the associated leaching of certain metals, particularly iron, aluminum, and manganese (see Brady and others, 1998). In contrast, CMD is relatively rare in the coal fields of southern West Virginia, western Virginia, and eastern Kentucky (the southern coal field of this report) in lower Middle and Lower Pennsylvanian strata. Mining disturbances in lower Middle and Lower Pennsylvanian strata occasionally result in manganese contamination, and even more rarely, minor acidic drainage may occur. In contrast to the notorious CMD problems in the northern fields, water contained in abandoned underground mines in the southern field is often potable, and is sometimes used as municipal water supplies. Thus, the regional and stratigraphic variations in the chemical and mineralogical properties of coal and coal-bearing strata are highly variable. Therefore, long-term goals for this study have been developed as follows:

1) evaluate the geologic controls on the chemistry, mineralogy, and spatial distribution (both regional and stratigraphic) of deleterious substances in coal and coal-bearing strata in the Appalachian basin; 2) develop methodologies that can be used to predict stratigraphic trends in materials that control CMD; and 3) develop methodologies for specific stratigraphic intervals that can be used to predict the regional spatial variability of materials that control CMD.

This preliminary report includes both stratigraphic and regional data on the chemistry and mineralogy of coal-bearing strata in both the northern and southern coal fields of the Appalachian basin.

This report presents chemical and mineralogical data from seven cores (USGS1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8). The data are presented as (1) Excel worksheets, (2) HTML tables derived from these worksheets, and (3) tab-delimited text. (Older browsers may not be able to read the HTML pages.) A 6-page Acrobat PDF file accompanies the data.

Download free Acrobat Reader software.
Visit the Adobe accessibility website.

Data files for OF 02-489

Core Excel Worksheet HTML Tab-Delimited Text
      Location Stratigraphy Geol. Log Sulfur XRF XRD Neutralization
USGS1 328 KB Page suite 1 KB 1 KB 169 KB 111 KB 39 KB 28 KB 12 KB
USGS2 171 KB Page suite 1 KB 1 KB 34 KB 3 KB 17 KB 13 KB 5 KB
USGS3 499 KB Page suite 2 KB 1 KB 74 KB 11 KB 60 KB 46 KB 19 KB
USGS4 698 KB Page suite 2 KB 1 KB 88 KB 18 KB 90 KB 75 KB 27 KB
USGS6 850 KB Page suite 2 KB 2 KB 101 KB 21 KB 112 KB 101 KB 35 KB
USGS7 258 KB Page suite 1 KB 1 KB 38 KB 6 KB 29 KB 24 KB 9 KB
USGS8 869 KB Page suite 2 KB 2 KB 110 KB 21 KB 113 KB 102 KB 34 KB


This publication was prepared by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, expressed or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed in this report, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference therein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof. Although data from this publication has been used by the U.S. Geological Survey, no warranty, expressed or implied, is made by the U.S. Geological Survey as to the accuracy of the data. The act of distribution shall not constitute any such warranty, and no responsibility is assumed by the U.S. Geological Survey in the use of this data.

Contact Information

For questions about the scientific content of this report, contact Frank T. Dulong.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]