The mineral resources are by far the most important group in Fayette County and they have largely determined the development of the County. The chief mineral industry is the mining of coal. Other mineral resources include the manufacture of brick and other clay products, crushed stone, sand and gravel, and natural gas.
Abstracted from the Geology of Pennsylvania, 1999. Pittsburgh Geological Society, et al.
The main bituminous coal fields occupy much of the Appalachian Plateau Province. Ten economically significant coal beds have been exploited in this area.
Brookville Clarion Coal Complex
Brookville Clarion Coal Complex, they are strip-mined in some areas and mined underground in a few areas. They tend to be high in sulfur and ash and are difficult to clean. Reserves of mineable thickness in Fayette County may be found along Chestnut Ridge, north of Ohiopyle and on the west slope of Laurel Hill.
Lower Kittanning Coal Complex
Lower Kittanning Coal Complex, normally strip-mined throughout its extensive outcrop area and is also mined underground in many places. This complex ranks third in terms of remaining resources. Reserves of mineable thickness in Fayette County may be found along Chestnut Ridge, Indian Creek, and Laurel Hill.
Upper Freeport Coal
Upper Freeport Coal is mined extensively, both on the surface and underground. The general good quality of this seam makes the UFC the second most important bed in terms of mining and reserves. Reserves in Fayette County may be found along the Monongahela River, the slopes of Chestnut Ridge, and the entire area east of Chestnut Ridge.
Pittsburgh Coal is the most important unit in Pennsylvania. In spite of extensive mining, it still represents 1/3 of the recoverable reserves over 36 inches thick and almost all of the reserves over 60 inches thick. Most of the reserves are in Washington and Greene Counties. This coal is essentially gone in Fayette County.
Sewickley Coal, well developed only in southern Greene and Fayette Counties where it is up to 60 feet thick. Considered an important commercial coal in the southwest quarter of the County including the municipalities of German, Nicholson, Springhill, Georges, South Union, and North Union Townships.
Redstone Coal irregularly present in Fayette County, but rarely thick enough to mine underground and only intermittently suitable for strip-mining. Reserves may be found in:
- Southern German
- Springfield Townships
- Western Franklin
Waynesburg Coal, difficult to mine underground, but it is commonly mined in surface operations. It has been mined extensively in Redstone, Luzerne, Menallen, and German Townships.
Other Economically Viable Beds
Other economically viable beds in the area are the Middle Kittanning Coal, the Upper Kittanning Coal, and the Lower Freeport Coal Complex. None seem to be economically significant in Fayette County.
Pennsylvania bituminous coal is mined for four markets: electric power generation, metallurgical coke, industrial use, and foreign export. In 1986, the percentages were 72, 11, 7, and 10 respectively. The amount of coal used for electric power has increased steadily for many years, while the production for coke and export has declined.
The remaining recoverable identified bituminous coal resources in Fayette County as of January 1984 are 2.1 billion tons over 28 inches; and 1.1 billion tons over 36 inches; and 75 million tons of strippable material (based on 120 feet of maximum cover less 20% mining loss).
Fayette County has had numerous commercially successful gas fields including:
- Fayette City
- Summit Gas Pool
- West Luzerne
Future Resource Use
It should be noted that Fayette County is currently ranked 5th in the state for estimates of undiscovered recoverable natural gas resources. In tapping into these economic resources, future planning must consider the cultural constraints (i.e. urbanized areas), the institutional constraints (i.e. forests and parklands), and finally the industrial constraints caused by the need of storage facilities.
Clay working is undoubtedly one of the world's oldest mining activities and has been part of the industrial history of Fayette County. Fire clay (refractory clay) is the most important commercially in Pennsylvania and has an average price of approximately $19 per ton. Refractory clays in Fayette County are found in association with the Upper Freeport beds (10 feet thick) and the Lower Kittanning beds (4 feet thick). Geographically, we are focusing on Stewart and Henry Clay Townships and the west Connellsville area. There is no active mining of this resource within Fayette County today.
In western Pennsylvania, the quarries that provide most of the construction aggregates are in the Vanport marine limestone of the Allegheny formation and in the calcareous sandstone and sandy limestone of the Loyalhanna Formation. In terms of volume and value, they are the primary non-fuel mineral commodities of Pennsylvania, which in 1987 ranked first in the production of crushed stone and set a national record for production by an individual state. Traditionally, most land transported aggregates, excluding those used for railroad ballast, are consumed within a thirty-mile radius of the source. Quarries have been developed throughout Fayette County but principally along Chestnut Ridge.
Carbonate products (limestone and dolomite) have many uses and represent about 80% of all non-fuel rocks being mined in Pennsylvania. The use of ground carbonate products and limes for pollution abatement has become the most recent major new market. Carbonate products are in increased demand for water and sewage treatment, the neutralization of acid mine drainage, and the desulfurization of flue gas. Lime is used for water treatment functions as a softening, purification, and coagulation agent.
The base material occurs throughout the greater part of Fayette County. Future planning will need to consider a favorable regulatory climate in order to benefit from and utilize this mineral resource.