Worldwide coal consumption and international coal trade are projected to increase in the next several decades (Energy Information Administration, 2007). A search of existing literature indicates that in the Western Hemisphere, coal resources are known to occur in about 30 countries. The need exists to be able to depict these areas in a digital format for use in Geographic Information System (GIS) applications at small scales (large areas) and in visual presentations.
Existing surficial geology GIS layers of the appropriate geologic age have been used as an approximation to depict the extent of coal-bearing areas in North, Central, and South America, as well as Greenland (fig. 1). Global surficial geology GIS data were created by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for use in world petroleum assessments (Hearn and others, 2003). These USGS publications served as the major sources for the selection and creation of polygons to represent coal-bearing areas. Additional publications and maps by various countries and agencies were also used as sources of coal locations. GIS geologic polygons were truncated where literature or hardcopy maps did not indicate the presence of coal.
The depicted areas are not adequate for use in coal resource calculations, as they were not adjusted for geologic structure and do not include coal at depth. Additionally, some coal areas in Central America could not be represented by the mapped surficial geology and are shown only as points based on descriptions or depictions from scientific publications or available maps. The provided GIS files are intended to serve as a backdrop for display of coal information. Three attributes of the coal that are represented by the polygons or points include geologic age (or range of ages), published rank (or range of ranks), and information source (published sources for age, rank, or physical location, or GIS geology base).