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Energy & Utilities careers

Coal

Why is the coal industry so important?

Coal is all about mining. It’s specifically all about surface mining, area mining, contour mining and underground mining - even mountaintop removal mining! The only thing that really dictates what you do in this industry, though, is the location of the next source of coal.

Coal is in demand because of its energy providing properties. The cement and steel industries also have a particularly strong love affair with Father Christmas’ weapon of choice, as they use it to extract iron from iron ore and to facilitate the production of cement. It’s commercially sourced in over 50 countries and is therefore a truly international industry.

Coal-fired plants still provide almost half of the consumed electricity in the UK - a particularly massive chunk of the energy pie.

How can coal be utilized?

Its main use is to produce heat and electricity through combustion: combining a furnace and a boiler to produce steam, which spins turbines to trigger generators that produce energy.

This is the way traditional power plants function in the UK. However, the government eventually plans to faze them out over the next few decades, as there are now more efficient ways to produce the electricity required. Despite this, they still play a major part in the production of energy in the UK.

There are also many other uses of coal: in producing ethanol, producing petrol via gasification and liquefaction, and also producing acetylene.

What jobs are available in the coal industry?

We’ve all heard about miners, in times gone by, spending hours underground in awful, murky conditions whilst digging coal for a pittance. Huge machines have now largely taken their place and put a stop to the traditional miner’s duties, with computers and giant instruments now taking the brunt of the burden. The majority of the jobs within this industry are now reserved for monitoring and operating the vast machines that do all of the dirty work.

Surface mining, usually taking place in quarries, is the most common location for anybody involved in the coal industry. Whether you wish to man the equipment, manage the site, map the next location of a coal deposit or transport it to the nearest power station, there are many career opportunities within this area.

If a career in the coal industry sounds good to you, then have a look at the occupational profile of a Quarry Manager here or at some job listings – are you ready to get your hands dirty?!