Walking along the path across the hills in Wyoming, you hear a deep rumble thousands of feet below you, and feel the ground tremble underneath your feet. There are coal mines all over the world. People have been using coal since prehistoric times. The first coal industries were developed in China. The Chinese were doing surface mining in the 300s AD. They were using coal to heat buildings and melt metals. By the 1000s, coal had become the leading fuel in China.
Commercial coal developed in Europe more slowly. During the 1200s coal was mined from open pits in England and what is now Belgium. Most Europeans thought coal a dirty fuel and refused to use it. Instead, they used charcoal. By the 1600s, charcoal was becoming so scarce that they had to switch to coal.
In Europe coal was a big support during the Industrial Revolution, 1700s. With all the factories sprouting, an abundant amount of iron was needed. Steam engines were needed to run the factories. They needed plenty of power so coal was used to power them. When the Industrial Revolution spread to other parts of the world, in 1800s, coal became the leading fuel in Europe and North America.
In North America, Native Americans used coal long before the Europeans came to the Americas. They dug coal from the hillside and used it to bake pottery. It wasnt until later that the European explorers discovered coal along the east coast in the last half of the 1600s. Throughout the 1700s small coal mines were opened that supplied coal for the blacksmiths and ironmakers. Most Americans did not use coal as long as wood was plentiful.
By the first half of the 1800s, when the Industrial Revolution spread to the United States coal was extremely useful. Since the steamships and locomotives have become the essential transportation, the demand for coal got higher. By the late 1900s, the U.S. was in the lead of producing coal.
The U.S. led the production of coal until around the mid- 1900s. The use of coal then decreased as natural gas and petroleum rose. Afterwards, the USSR led coal production for nearly 20 years. From the 1980s to 1990s, China has ranked first, the U.S. second.