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Mineral resources of Pennsylvania


Mining of Pennsylvania
Mining of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has always ranked high among the nation’s mineral-producing states. It has enormous coal reserves and is the Industrial Age’s oldest producer of petroleum. Limestone, sand and gravel, clay, and peat are also mined or quarried in significant quantities. Fuels are of prime importance, however, and coal, oil, and natural gas made up about four-fifths of the value of the state’s mineral output in the late 1990s. Coal in particular has profoundly affected Pennsylvania’s economic development. It has long been an essential source of fuel for the state’s steel mills. For more than two centuries, Pennsylvania has produced nearly all the anthracite coal mined in the United States and far more bituminous coal than any other state. For many decades the state led the nation in total coal production, but it now ranks fourth (behind Wyoming, West Virginia, and Kentucky).

The anthracite region, covering an area of less than 1,300 sq km (500 sq mi) contains the only anthracite deposits in the United States, with the exception of small areas in Colorado and New Mexico. This region lies in the eastern part of the Ridge and Valley. It consists of the Wyoming Basin in the north around Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, the Middle Field around Hazelton, and the Southern Field around Pottsville. Anthracite is an extremely hard, high-quality coal that burns with a clear flame and almost no smoke. Although in the past it was used extensively to heat homes and office buildings, it is little used for industrial purposes. With the increasing use of oil, gas, and electricity to heat homes and buildings, the demand for anthracite has steadily declined. From a peak production of nearly 90 million metric tons a year mined during World War I (1914-1918), the output of Pennsylvania anthracite dropped to 4 million metric tons a year in the late 1990s.

Bituminous coal, which is softer, easier to mine, and less expensive than anthracite, occurs widely throughout western Pennsylvania. Bituminous coal is ideal for an extensive variety of industrial purposes.

Natural gas
Natural gas

Much has been used to make coke for the blast furnaces in iron and steel mills. Because of technological changes in transportation and industry, and a more recent decline in iron and steel production, the demand for bituminous coal has declined in the 20th century. Production in Pennsylvania dropped from more than 160 million metric tons a year during World War I to around 80 million metric tons a year beginning in the early 1970s. It was 65 million metric tons in the late 1990s.

There are two important orchard regions in the state. Apples and peaches are grown on the slopes of South Mountain in the southeast. Near the shore of Lake Erie, apples, cherries, and grapes are important crops. Because there is much less danger of frost near the lakeshore than farther inland, this area is well suited to fruit growing. Along with the declining demand for both bituminous and anthracite coal, mechanization of the coal-mining industry has accelerated. In 1975 there were only one-fourth as many miners in the state as in 1940.

Limestone
Limestone

Pennsylvania also produces some interesting The resulting unemployment problems led to a large-scale exodus from the mining areas. From 1920 to 1960 the population of the anthracite region dropped from more than 1 million to less than 800,000. In the west many of the smaller mining towns were abandoned. The coal regions have attempted to attract new employment. In the area around Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, where a major battle for economic rehabilitation is being waged, manufacturing is now more important to the economy than mining. The world’s first commercial oil well was drilled at Titusville, in northwestern Pennsylvania, in 1859. During the last half of the 19th century, Pennsylvania was the nation’s leading oil producer. Peak production was reached in 1891, with 31 million barrels. While the state no longer ranks high as an oil producer, its reserves are not yet exhausted. Oil wells produced 3.6 million barrels of oil in 2006.

While oil was once the chief product pumped from Pennsylvania’s ground, the value of natural gas extracted in the late 1990s was far greater than the value of the petroleum processed. In 2007 production of natural gas was 5.2 billion cu m (182 billion cu ft). Limestone is distributed widely throughout southeastern and central Pennsylvania. It is used as a building stone, a source of lime, a flux in blast furnaces, and as an ingredient in Portland cement. Pennsylvania is one of the nation’s largest cement producers, and much of its output comes from an area north of Allentown in the Lehigh Valley. Slag, a waste product of the steel industry, is widely used in the manufacture of construction materials. Sandstone is found along the major stream courses, particularly in those regions that once were glaciated, and provides the raw material for the state’s glass-manufacturing industry. Clay is widely scattered throughout the state, with clay-products plants making such items as tile, sewer pipe, and heat-resistant materials for industrial furnaces. "Pennsylvania" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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