A BRIEF HISTORY OF COAL MINING, RECLAMATION
AND REGULATION IN PENNSYLVANIA

 

1751 First reference to bituminous coal found along the Kiskiminetas River near Saltsburg by John Pattin.  
   
1761 First record of coal mining in Pennsylvania on Coal Hill (now Mount Washington), across the Monongahela River from Fort Pitt. Major Edward Ward was the first mine superintendent. The mine was located in the Pittsburgh coal seam, generally known as the world’s most valuable mineral deposit.
   
1762 First record of anthracite coal appears on a map by John Jenkins. It is referred to as "stone coal."
   
1766 First mine fire is observed and recorded by Presbyterian minister Charles Beatty on Coal Hill.
   
1769 First recorded use of anthracite coal by the Gore Brothers in their blacksmith shop in Wilkes-Barre.
   
1770 George Washington burns coal at Stewarts Crossing (Connellsville).
   
1784 The Penn family begins selling rights to mine coal on the Pittsburgh seam.
   
1797 Albert Gallatin builds a glass factory at New Geneva, beginning a glass industry which lasted for most of the 19th century. Coal was the principal fuel.
   
1800 Samuel Riddle, a Bedford lawyer, begins shipping coal from the Broad Top field to eastern markets via the Juniata River.
   
1803 First commercial shipment of bituminous coal from Pittsburgh. Three hundred fifty tons were shipped as ballast on the ship "Louisiana." The coal was eventually sold in Philadelphia for 37.5 cents per bushel.
   
1804 William Boyd ships an ark of coal down the Susquehanna River from Clearfield to Columbia in  Lancaster County. This was the first commercial shipment of coal from Clearfield County.
   
1815 The first safety lamp is invented in Great Britain by Sir Humphrey Davy to detect methane in coal mines.
   
1818 Colonel Isaac Meason uses coke to heat iron at his Plumsock Iron Works, site of the first iron rolling mill west of the Alleghenies.
 
The Lehigh Canal is built by Josiah White and Erskine Hazard to ship anthracite coal to outside  markets.
   
1833 A Mr. Nichols hires John Taylor to construct the first beehive coke oven in the United States, near Connellsville.
 
The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Geissenhamer secures a patent for smelting pig iron with anthracite. In 1836, he builds the Lucy furnace near Pottsville, where he uses his new process.
   

1836

 

The Pennsylvania Geologic Survey is formed to map and record the state’s natural resources.
 
The Monongahela Navigation Company is formed to construct a series of locks and dams for the purpose of shipping coal. By 1844, the locks and dams provided 55 miles of slack water from Brownsville to Pittsburgh. In that year, 750,000 bushels of coal were shipped downriver. By 1877, the volume exceeded one billion bushels.
   
1841 John Taylor builds two beehive coke ovens on his farm. The first shipment of coke from these ovens in 1842 is a failure.
   
1843 Mordecai Cochran and his nephews, James and Sample, purchase the Taylor ovens and ship 13,000 bushels of coke to Cincinnati, where it is sold for seven cents per bushel. This was the first sale of coke outside the Connellsville district, and marked the beginning of the beehive coke era.
   
1844 The first mechanical fan is introduced to ventilate coal mines.
   
1855 The Bessemer Converter is invented, beginning the era of modern steelmaking, and increasing the demand for coke.
   
1857 William Kelly builds a converter to transform iron into steel at the Cambria Iron Works in Johnstown.
   
1859 Graff, Bennett, & Co. uses coke as fuel in the Clinton Furnace, the first successful blast furnace in Pittsburgh. In 1860 they began using coke from the Connellsville region. This event marks the beginning of the end of rural ironmaking in the U.S.
   
1862 All locomotives on the Pennsylvania Railroad are now using coal as fuel. The railroads will remain a principal market for bituminous coal until the 1930’s.
   
1865 The Coal and Iron Police are authorized by the Pennsylvania General Assembly to maintain order in the coal fields. The miners referred to these private policemen as "Cossacks" and "Yellow Dogs."
   
1873 H. C. Frick borrows $10,000 from Judge Thomas Mellon to build 50 beehive coke ovens near Connellsville. Before they were finished, he borrowed another $10,000 to build 50 more ovens. Between 1870 and 1908, his company would acquire nearly 50 coke plants with a total of 10,000 ovens and 11,000 employees. He became a millionaire by age 30.
 
Because money is scarce due to the "Panic of 1873", Mr. Frick begins paying his workers with "Frick Dollars", redeemable only at his store. This was the beginning of the "company store" system and payment of miner's wages in scrip.
   
1875 The Edgar Thompson Works, the first Bessemer steel plant in the Pittsburgh area, is constructed to manufacture steel rails.
   
1877 The "Bituminous Coal Mining Inspection Force" is created by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Three mine inspectors are appointed by the Governor.
 
Ten Members of the "Molly Maguires" are hung in Pottsville and Mauch Chunk for crimes committed against anthracite coal operators.
   
1880 The total production of coke in the U.S. is 2,752,475 tons, of which 73% is made in the Connellsville district of Fayette and Westmoreland Counties.
 
The air powered undercutting machine is invented in Chicago by J.W. Harrison.
   
1883 Charles Wolf invents the flame safety lamp, using naptha for fuel instead of oil. The lamp was developed for the purpose of detecting oxygen deficiency and methane, and is still used for those purposes.
   
1887 The first electric haulage motors are introduced in Pennsylvania coal mines.
   
1890 The United Mine Workers of America is formed by the merger of several smaller unions. John B. Rae, of Pennsylvania, is the first president.
   
1891 The UMWA, at its first convention, demands regular inspections of all mines by a state or federal government agency.
   
1894 The Semet-Solvay Company builds the first by-product coke ovens in the U.S. at Dunbar to capture the tar, ammonia, oil and gas which were wasted by the beehive coking process.
   
1897 Lattimer massacre. Nineteen striking anthracite miners were killed, and approximately 50 others were wounded by sheriff's deputies. The UMWA signed up over 15,000 new members over the next four months.
   
1898 Coal miners win the right to an eight hour workday in settlement of the 1897 strike under the leadership of UMWA Vice President John Mitchell.
   
1902 The first automated coal loading machine is patented in West Virginia.
   
1903 The Pennsylvania Department of Mines is established on April 14 and is charged with the execution of mining laws in the Commonwealth, with an  emphasis on underground mine safety.
 
Purity of Waters Act. First "clean water" legislation. Water pumped or flowing from coal mines is exempted.
   
1907 Highest number of fatal accident victims in Pennsylvania mining history. One thousand fourteen miners were killed during that year. Seven hundred eight of those were anthracite miners and 806 were bituminous miners. Both the anthracite and bituminous fields saw their highest number of fatalities in 1907, which was also the year of the Darr mine explosion, the largest mine disaster in Pennsylvania history, when 239 miners lost their lives.
   
1909 Act 210 is passed, prohibiting the employment of minors under the age of 14 at the outside workings of coal mines, and placing limitations on the employment of minors under the age of 16, in general.
   
1910 The U. S. Bureau of Mines is established to "investigate the methods of mining, especially in relation to the safety of miners". Joseph A. Holmes is the first  Director.
   
1914 Employment in the anthracite fields peaks at 180,899.
   
1917 Pennsylvania anthracite production peaks at 100,445,299 tons. This was the only year in history that anthracite production exceeded 100 million tons.
 
The Clairton Works, the first modern by-product coke plant, is constructed near Pittsburgh on the Monongahela River, marking the beginning of the end of the beehive coke era and the heyday of the Connellsville coke region.
   
1918 Pennsylvania combined coal production peaks at 276,663,088 tons.
 
Pennsylvania bituminous coal production peaks at 177,217,294 tons.
   
1919 The Joy Machine Company is founded in Pittsburgh by Joseph F. Joy. The company will become the world’s largest manufacturer of mining machines.
   
1923 Employment in Pennsylvania bituminous coal mines peaks at 200,538.
 
Purity of Public Waters Act. Mine Drainage is still exempt from regulation.
   
1931 Pennsylvania bituminous coal production falls below 100 million tons for the first time since 1904.
 
Governor Pichot revokes all outstanding commissions for private policemen and refuses to issue new ones, thereby ending the industrial police system.
   
1933 UMWA wins the right to collective bargaining with the mining industry. Prior to 1933, the employees of the larger coal companies were represented by smaller company-specific unions.
   
1937 Pennsylvania legislature passes the Clean Streams Law (CSL). Mine drainage is exempted until a practical means for the removal of polluting properties is known.
   
1944 U.S. Steel officially opens the Robena mine in Greene County. The Robena mine was the largest coal mine in the world at that time and was the first fully automated coal mine. A total of 23,000 acres or 35.9 square miles were mined at Robena. Operations continued until 1983.
   
1945 Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal Open Pit Mining Conservation Act (Act) is passed, creating the first law in the nation to address surface mining. This Act  required coal operators to register their mines, post a bond of $400, per acre, cover exposed coal to a depth of five feet above the top of the seam, round off spoil banks, and revegetate, if reasonable.
 
Clean Streams Law is amended. It is declared unlawful and a nuisance to discharge mine drainage into clean waters of the Commonwealth, which are devoted to public use. Coal operators are required to submit a mine drainage plan prior to operating mines.
   
1946 UMWA secures health and retirement benefits for its members.
 
Anthracite Strip Mining Law is passed. Bond rate is set at $200, per acre.
   
1948 Anthracite surface mining production peaks at 13,485,837 tons.
 
The continuous miner is introduced by Joy Manufacturing. Continuous mining remained the most efficient method of mining coal until the introduction of  the longwall method in the 1960s.
   
1952 Coal is surpassed by petroleum as the nation’s primary energy source.
 
Pennsylvania bituminous coal production falls below 100 million tons, never to exceed that level again.
   
1955 Pennsylvania General Assembly creates the Coal Research Board (Board) to study the economics, technology, and marketing of bituminous and  anthracite coal. In 1963, the scope of the Board was increased to include air and water pollution, mine fires, and mine safety.
   
1959 Knox Mine Disaster. In January of 1959, the waters of the Susquehanna River broke into the underground mine workings of the Knox Coal Company, flooding this mine and adjacent operations. Twelve men were killed in this accident. Several violations were discovered during the investigation. Because of  prohibitive pumping costs, this event brought an end to anthracite mining in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania.
   
1961 Act 339. The Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal Mine Act. This Act, as amended, is the law governing underground mining in Pennsylvania.
 
The Bituminous Coal Open Pit Mining Conservation Act is amended, requiring mine operators to obtain a license and permit prior to the operation of a mine. Bond rates increased to $500 - $1000, per acre. The operator could opt to surrender $100, per acre, and allow the Commonwealth to replant the site.
 
Anthracite Strip Mining Law is renamed the Anthracite Strip Mining and Conservation Act. Bond rate is increased to $500 - $1000, per acre. All pits less than 100 feet deep and all pits within 100 feet of a road, or 250 feet of a building, are required to be completely backfilled.
   
1965 Clean Streams Law is amended. The new policy of the Commonwealth is not only to prevent further stream pollution, but also to restore every polluted stream to a clean unpolluted condition. The definition of Industrial Waste is expanded to include mine drainage. Mine operators are now required toobtain a Sanitary Water Board (SWB) permit prior to opening, reopening, or continuing the operation of a mine. SWB is prohibited from issuing a permit  if pollution will occur.
   
1968 Pennsylvania legislature passes the Land and Water Conservation and Reclamation Act (Act 443), the first law addressing reclamation of abandoned mine lands and abatement of acid mine drainage, and the Coal Refuse Disposal Act (amended in 1980).
 
Operation Scarlift, a $200 million bond issue, is introduced to provide funding for abandoned mine reclamation and acid mine drainage abatement in Pennsylvania.
   
1969 Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act is passed. Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration (MESA) is established.
   
1970 Clean Streams Law amended. Post-mining discharges are subject to CSL. Civil and criminal penalty provisions added. Section 316 amended to hold  landowners responsible for pollutional discharges. Commonwealth obtained authority to require a bond to ensure treatment of discharges.
 
Department of Environmental Resources is created.
 
Bituminous Coal Open Pit Mining Conservation Act is renamed the Surface Mine Conservation and Reclamation Act and amended to include anthracite mining. This amendment required backfilling to approximate original contour, segregation and replacement of topsoil and revegetation. This Act is considered to be the model for the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977.
   
1977 Bituminous surface mine production peaks at 46,605,297 tons and continues to exceed underground production until 1982.
 
Congress introduces the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). As a result, coal-producing states are required to update their regulations to be consistent with the federal act, if they wish to retain primary responsibility for regulating the surface mining industry. In addition, the Act established the Abandoned Mine Lands Trust Fund by imposing a fee of 35 cents, per ton, of surface mined coal and 15 cents, per ton, of deep mined  coal. The Fund is used to reclaim mine lands abandoned prior to 1977.
 
Federal Mine Safety and Health Act is passed, establishing the Mine Safety and Health Administration. (MSHA replaces MESA)
 
Clean Streams Law and Surface Mine Conservation and Reclamation Acts are amended to achieve primacy. A Surface Mining Permit is created to replace the old Mine Drainage Permit and Mining Permit.
   
1982 Pennsylvania resumes primary authority (primacy) for regulating surface mining within the Commonwealth after a complete overhaul of its regulations.
 
Consolidation Coal Company announces plans to develop five new mines in western Greene County. The first of these, the Bailey Mine, is expected to  reach full production in 1986, and was said to be capable of producing 2.25 million tons, per year. In 1996, the Bailey mine produced nearly 7.5 million tons.
   
1984 A conference is held at Penn State University to discuss "Treatment of Mine Drainage by Wetlands", and in 1985 Penn State hosted the conference on  Wetlands and Water Management on Mine Lands. These conferences paved the way for passive water treatment technology for acid mine drainage.
   
1985 Pennsylvania amends its mining regulations by adopting "Subchapter F - Minimum Requirements for Remining Areas with Pollutional Discharges."
   
1990 Federal SMCRA is amended to allow states to set aside up to 10% of their Title IV abandoned mine lands funding to address acid mine drainage  problems.
   
1992 Pennsylvania SMCRA is amended to provide incentives for remining and reclamation of abandoned mine lands.
 
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is created by Governor Tom Ridge, from a part of the old Department of Environmental Resources.
   

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