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RM-10 — Coal Fields and Mines of New Mexico

By David E. Tabet and Stephen J. Frost, 1978.

Geologic formations containing coal deposits underlie about a fifth of New Mexico. Coal resources, estimated to exceed 282 billion short tons (Shomaker and others, 1971), constitute a major asset in New Mexico's energy future. This map presents an overview of the occurrence and characteristics of coal in New Mexico. The map shows the areas where coal-bearing formations occur. The location of all active and most inactive mines are shown on the map and, in more detail, in rigs. I and 2. The recognized names far the coal basins and fields are given on the map and in fig. 3. The mines shown are keyed to a list (tables 1 and 2) that gives the mine name, location, geologic coal-bearing unit, bed mined, and bed thickness. In addition, a synopsis for each field or basin (presented in alphabetical order) provides more information on the geography of the field, history of production, coal occurrence, coal rank, and coal resources. Resource figures cited include measured, indicated, and inferred tonnages combined; these figures neglect tonnages removed by mining.

Annual tonnages and value of coal produced over the past 94 years are listed in table 3. Coal is known to have been mined in New Mexico by the Spanish in the 1700's; small-scale mining is recorded for the Cerrillos field in 1835. Not until 1861 did mining begin on a significant scale, with the opening of a mine in the Carthage field by Union tr.oops stationed at nearby Ft. Craig. Demand for coal by railroads and by copper and lead smelters in the Southwest pushed annual production in the state from a million tons in 1 899 to a peak of over 4 million tons by 1918. During that era, coal was mined mainly in the Raton and Gallup areas, with significant amounts mined from the .Carthage, Cerrillos, and Sierra Blanca coal fields . FolloWing World War I, discovery of less expensive oil and gas resources initiated the decline of the coal market. This decline continued through the 1950's, bottoming out at 117,000 tons in 1958. In 1960 interest in New Mexico coal was revived when Kaiser Steel Corp. developed coking-coal mines in the Raton field. Also in the early 1960's, large-scale production commenced at new stripping operations in the San Juan Basin. The McKinley and Navajo mines opened to supply coal far electric power generation. In 1972 the San Juan mine. north of Farmington, began to supply coal for another mine-mouth power plant. An increasing demand in the Southwest for inexpensive. strippable low-sulfur coal far electric power generation will be the key for opening up the mQre remote central parts of the San Juan Basin.

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