Back to Publications

The Alaskan Coal Industry a Status Report

Cole E. McFarland, Alaska Mineral Development (1978)

Alaskan coal is a major State and national fuel resource. Based on geologic criteria, the total coal resource is estimated to be several trillion tons. Recoverable coal reserves are estimated to be over 100 billion tons. Future availability of this important energy resource must be taken into account by the Congress in making land use decisions.

A large part of the coal resource is situated in northern regions far from the existing railroad system so that it is subject to Arctic shipping constraints. Coal reserves which may be developed in the near term are close to transport systems or local markets. These areas contain predominantly lower rank subbituminous coal and minor reserves of bituminous coal. Alaskan coals are generally low in sulfur and are well suited for raising steam to generate electric power. The timing of new coal mine developments will be affected by availability and price of competing fuels, national energy policies, political and environmental considerations, and new coal technology.

The most likely markets will be future coal-fired power plants, to be constructed to meet expanding Alaskan industrial and utility demands for electric energy. Export of Alaska coal to west coast states as alternates to Great Plains coal and nuclear power remains a reasonably good possibility. The most rapid growth in coal markets will be in the Asian countries