Yes and no. Coal can be located at or near the Earth’s surface, making it easier to extract. However, it can also exist thousands of feet below the surface.
Coal formation began during the Carboniferous Period which was hundreds of millions of years ago. It is with burial (coal being under the surface of the earth) that the plant material from which coal is formed is subjected to high temperatures and pressure, This causes physical and chemical changes in the vegetation, transforming it into peat and then into coal.
Some are – and can be found within 200 feet of the surface. This is called lignite coal – it is the softest and burns at the lowest temperature. The next type of coal, bituminous coal is typically found between 8,500 and 20,000 feet below the Earth’s surface. Anthracite, the hardest, is found even lower than that and is typically 98% carbon.
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