The first account of coal mining in Texas was written in 1819. Most of the coal extraction consisted of small operations until the 1880s.
Three classes of coal have been mined in Texas: bituminous, sub bituminous, and lignite. Most of the coal mining done from the 1800s to the 1940s used underground methods, where vertical shafts or sloped adits (tunnel entrance) provided access to the mine workings. Surface mining methods (strip mining) to extract coal were used starting in the 1950s.
The major coal mining areas or regions have been identified through several inventories. Coal mining activity has been verified in 32 localities within 18 coal mining areas/regions (click on the upper right thumbnail map for a higher resolution version). The current tally of historical coal mine sites stands at 316. Historical coal mining activity took place within 40 counties (click on the lower right thumbnail map for a higher resolution version).
All coal mining as of August 1977 has been regulated under the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).The mine sites included in the two maps were all in operation and abandoned prior to passing the SMCRA legislation; therefore the mining companies were not required to reclaim those 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. The underground workings (rooms and tunnels) can also collapse and create sinkholes or depressions in the surface. These collapses can damage surface structures or pose an additional hazard for people or livestock.