Coal Mines In RI? What Happened to Them?

I saw an old stock certificate…for a company called the Cumberland (RI) Coal Company. I undertsnad that there was quite a bit of coal mining in RI, SE Massachusetts in the 19th century.
What happened…did the coal run out? Or was Pennsylvania coal cheaper to mine? :eek:

Probably the same thing that happened to the iron mines of New York and New Jersey (NY’s Benson Mine ran at least into the 1950s - it was surface (strip mining))
Benson Iron Mining - NYC descripton from the 1950s (-5.jpg and -6.jpg are next pages)
New Jersey had a lot of ‘bog iron’ deposits in the Pinelands, and probably shaft iron mines in the Northern section.
In both cases, cheaper and easier to work deposits in the Mid-West/West pretty much overwhelmed the NY/NJ production.

Probably much the same happened for Mass/RI coal mines (if these were significant to even begin with - they may have sufficed for colonial/federal period usage, but were grossy inadequate when America fully entered the Industrial Age).

Note that many Pennsy anthracite coal mines have closed down over the past decades due to cheaper/easier bituminous coal production from the West .

Well, this is the most probable reason I found (without really delving into the history of colonial Rhode Island for a few days…)

You perhaps may have seen that page already in your studies - does seem to indicate that the coal supplies were adequate (or at least usable) for the colonial period, but when better quality and more freely available supplies of coal came about the local mines were abandoned.

My 2001 Keystone manual shows no commercially produced coal in Rhode Island. Confirming back 10 years to my 1992 manual shows the same.

I have a few coal analyses from Rhode Island that show that in general the coals were semi-anthracite or anthracite in ranking, but had ash contents ranging from 10-15%, and moisture contents of about 10%. Compare this with ash contents of the anthracite coalfields of Pennsylvania, and you won’t see much difference. While moisture can be as low as 3% for Dauphin County coal, it can run to 9% for Carbon County. And ash ranges from 11% to about 18%. Even the famous Lackawanna coal seems to have moisture around 6-7% and ash around 14-17%. So overall, there isn’t that huge of a coal quality difference on first glance.

A second glance was difficult to find, and I would have to make calls on Monday to find more info at this point. However, the best I can tell about the Rhode Island coal seams is that they were small in area, small in thickness (a huge impact on the cost - the Pennsylvania anthracite seams run between 4-6 feet generally; the Rhode Island seam information shows 2-3 feet, which is actually an order of magnitude difference in difficulty), and some samples show an atypically high chlorine level - I’m seeing 0.3-0.5%, which is akin to some English high-chlorine coals. Most likely they would be unacceptable for use in many boilers nowadays, due to the very low volatile matter and high chlorine - I would expect to see some bad chemistry in the fireside, what with the high level of primary air needed, the reduction of secondary air may lead to reducing zones in the furnace.

Given coal prices in the East, the nearly total lack of need for anthracite in large-scale production, the high chloride content, etc, etc, it is likely that there will never be coal production again in Rhode Island.

Just a personal anecdote:

I went to elementary and middle school on top of what used to be a coal mine in Portsmouth, RI (on Aquidneck Island, two towns north of the famed Newport). Most of the rock on the school and the adjacent beach was slate, the stuff was everywhere, but we all thought the mine was underground somewhere. On the road down to the school there were piles of what looked like un-trucked coal, left there when the mining stopped.

Add in to that mess that we were told in a local history class in 8th grade that “there used to be coal mines all over this area, but the coal was too dirty to be used for homes, only power plants would buy it, then it got too expensive,” and it would seem to match what’s already been said by our esteemed coal combustion expert (thanks Una!).

I do know that there are still quite a few companies that deliver coal - my parents still have and use a coal stove for supplementary heat in the winter - perhaps the stock certificate could be from one of the delivery companies?