Coal exploration, and mineral/hydrocarbon exploration in general, is a highly complex and scientific process that’s evolved far beyond the old “prospecting” days of the 19th century. Today energy companies devote significant resources to studying potentially coal-bearing lands through satellite imagery, land records, geological surveys and other means. If coal has ever been observed at the surface, this is naturally regarded as a sign that significant reserves might be located nearby. Samples must be taken and analyzed to determine if any coal or other materials are even usable, and then more surveys must be done in order to figure out whether and how a profitable coal mine can be logistically established. Many new veins of coal being extracted today are parts of existing mines that may have been discovered long ago and have either not yet been exploited for whatever reason, or the technology or economic resources have not been adequate to gain access to it. Nevertheless, while exploration is a largely technical process, coal mining itself remains a dangerous and dirty business, as it has for the entire time human beings have used coal as a fuel source.
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