Accuracy and Reliability of Department of the Interior's Coal Reserve Data

EMD-78-23: Published: Jan 11, 1978. Publicly Released: Jan 11, 1978.

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The Department of the Interior's system of measuring and estimating coal deposits includes two commonly used categories -- resources and reserves. Resources include all known coal, plus coal deposits not yet discovered but believed to exist; reserves are portions of identified coal resources that can be extracted under current economic, technological, and legal conditions.

There are two main problems associated with existing coal reserve estimates that have been published by Interior: lack of consistent and reliable data; and lack of analysis of economic, technologic, and legal conditions on a site-specific basis to determine which reserves may or may not be mined. Available coal estimates used by the Department of the Interior rely upon numerous secondary sources that are regarded at best as gross approximations rather than accurate estimates based on sound geological, economic, and engineering measurement. There are also serious deficiencies in the quantity and quality of the resource, reserve, and economic data available for Government use in valuing coal areas under the Federal Coal Leasing Program. The Federal coal leasing policy is divided between the Departments of Interior and Energy.

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