Historical Coal Mining in Texas

The first account of coal mining in Texas was written about an unnamed lignite mine near the Sabine River in 1819. Until the 1880s, most of the coal extraction in the state consisted of small operations.

Three classes of coal have been mined in Texas: bituminous (including cannel coal), subbituminous and lignite. Most of the coal mining done from the 1800s to the 1920s and 30s (when oil started replacing coal as a fuel source in Texas) used underground methods, where vertical shafts or sloped adits (tunnel entrance) provided access to the mine workings. Surface strip mining (also known as area, open pit or open cast mining) to extract lignite was used at several mines starting in the 1920s, but was the only means of extracting lignite after 1951.

There are six coal provinces in the conterminous United States (the “Lower 48”). Parts of two of them are found in Texas: the Interior and Gulf Coal Provinces (To view map, click on "Mining Regions/Fields and Sites"). The major coal mining zones within Texas have been identified through several inventories. Coal mining activity has been verified in 32 localities within 18 coal mining zones. (To view map, click on "Mining Zones".) The current tally of identified historical coal mine sites stands at 353. Historical coal mining activity took place within 40 counties. (To view map, click on "Mining Counties".)

All coal mining as of August 1977 has been regulated under the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). The 64th Texas Legislature enacted the Texas Surface Mining and Reclamation Act in 1975 which, after passage of SMCRA, was superseded by the Texas Coal Mining and Reclamation Act enacted in 1979 by the 67th Texas Legislature. The mine sites included in the three maps were all in operation and abandoned prior to enactment of SMCRA legislation. Therefore the mining companies were not required to reclaim those sites.

This web page was developed by the Railroad Commission of Texas to provide online access to maps that show the sites and areas where historical coal mining has taken place in Texas. Only pre-Act sites are included in these maps.

Stay Out! Stay Alive!

The national public awareness campaign  Stay Out! Stay Alive!  provides information on the dangers of abandoned and active mine sites. Historical, underground coal mining can pose a hazard if shafts or adits are still accessible to the public. People should stay out of underground mines - they are not like caves. Poisonous or bad air, explosive gases, unstable roofs, and flooded sections can pose lethal hazards.

Additionally, the underground workings (rooms and tunnels) can collapse and create sinkholes or depressions in the surface. These collapses are generally unpredictable, can occur decades after mining ceased, and can damage surface structures or pose an additional hazard for people or livestock.

For more information, contact:

Abandoned Mine Land Section
Surface Mining and Reclamation Division
Railroad Commission of Texas
1701 North Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas 78701