Coal Energy in New Mexico

  • The History of Coal in New Mexico's History:

Coal production has played a significant role in the economic development of New Mexico beginning in the 1850’s and continuing to the present.
The first growth of the coal industry was driven by westward expansion and the development of the railroads, with yearly production first exceeding 1 million short tons in 1889. In 1918, this first cycle of coal production peaked at over 4 million short tons of coal. After World War I, production dropped continually through the depression of the 1920s and early 30s. By 1958, coal production had dropped to 86,000 short tons, in part due to cheap natural gas and the conversion of diesel engines by the railroad.

In the 1960s, coal production began to increase due to the growing population of the Southwest and California. By 1997, annual coal production had reached 26.77 million short tons.
It is one of the four mineral fuels produced in New Mexico, ranking third in value behind natural gas, (including coal-bed methane) and crude oil. Coal resources underlie 12% (14.6 million acres) of the state’s total area. Most of the coal is in northern New Mexico, primarily in the San Juan (and Raton basins. Several minor coal fields outside these basins have had significant production in the past, and some may become important in the future, in particular for coal-bed methane production). The large surface mines of the San Juan Basin (McKinley, Navajo, and San Juan) began operating in the 1960s and 70s and are still used today, Today, 46% of the state’s total energy needs are met through power generated from coal.

Coal is an important contribution to New Mexico’s state budget; it is the third largest source of revenues from mineral and energy production. Tax revenues (severance, resources excise, and conservation taxes, and royalties) from coal on state land were $30.7 million in 2001. New Mexico also receives 50% of the royalties collected on federal lands totaling $12.3 million in 2001. The coal industry directly employed 1,800 people in 2001 adding to the general economy of the State. Presently there are five operating coal mines in New Mexico, four surface and one underground operation. These mines produced 30.53 million tons in 2001, making New Mexico 12th in the nation for coal production.


  • Current information about the technology and usage
  • Current information about the science (equations, calculations, etc.)
  • The Benefits
  • The Drawbacks