Coal production is booming in Colorado, according to a presentation Friday at the 18th annual Northwest Colorado Coal Conference in Craig.
Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, said production in the state has topped 40 million tons this year, a breakthrough for the industry.
But, that hasn't always been the case.
"If you would have asked me 10 years ago that we would be competing with Wyoming for coal production, I would have said no," Sanderson said.
Colorado ranks sixth in the nation in coal production, but about five years ago, it ranked 12th. Wyoming produced 373 million tons of coal in 2003 -- a number that far outranks any other state's production rate.
About 50 people with various interests in the coal-mining industry attended the annual coal conference at the Holiday Inn. Participants also toured local coal mines and will end the three-day event today with a golf tournament that attracts politicians.
Moffat County Com-missioner Saed Tayyara, who attended the event, said he thought people harbor misconceptions about the coal-mining industry.
Mines often takes painstaking measures to reclaim land, and coal mined in Colorado burns cleaner than coal mined in other states.
Tayyara has worked for ColoWyo Coal Company.
Presentations at the event included a range of reports, including clean-air issues and developments in transporting coal via railroads.
Currently, Colorado can produce more coal than it can transport across the state because of limited railroad routes through the Rocky Mountains, Sanderson said.
Coal mined in Colorado burns from 99 to 13,000 BTU. BTU, or British thermal unit, is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of liquid water by one degree Fahrenheit at its maximum density. Coal burns cleaner when it has high amounts of BTUs. Colorado coal often is mixed with coal mined from other states to increase its levels of BTU, thereby passing requirements for clean air when it is burned for energy.
The average wage for a coal miner in Colorado is $87,263, which is up 6 percent from last year, according to information provided by the Colorado Mining Association.
"It's an important part of the economy in rural areas," Sanderson said. "Without coal mining, Craig wouldn't be here, or it wouldn't be very big."