The Middle Pennsylvanian Breathitt Formation (Westphalian B) Pond Creek and Fire Clay coal beds are the 2 largest producing coal beds in eastern Kentucky. Single channel samples from 22 localities in the Pond Creek coal bed were obtained from active coal mines in Pike and Martin Countries, Kentucky, and a total of 18 Fire Clay coal bed channel samples were collected from localities in the central portion of the coal field. The overall objective of this study was to investigate the concentration and distribution of potentially hazardous elements in the Fire Clay and Pond Creek coal beds, with particular emphasis on As and Pb, 2 elements that are included in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments as potential air toxics. The 2 coals are discussed individually as the depositional histories are distinct, the Fire Clay coal bed having more sites where relatively high-S lithologies are encountered. In an effort to characterize these coals, 40 whole channel samples, excluding 1-cm partings, were analyzed for major, minor and trace elements by X-ray fluorescence and proton-induced X-ray emission spectroscopy. Previously analyzed samples were added to provide additional geographic coverage and lithotype samples from one site were analyzed in order to provide detail of vertical elemental trends. The As and Pb levels in the Fire Clay coal bed tend to be higher than in the Pond Creek coal bed. One whole channel sample of the Fire Clay coal bed contains 1156 ppm As (ash basis), with a single lithotype containing 4000 ppm As (ash basis). Most of the As and Pb appears to be associated with pyrite, which potentially can be removed in beneficiation (particularly coarser pyrite). Disseminated finer pyrite may not be completely removable by cleaning. In the examination of pyrite conducted in this study, it does not appear that significant concentration of As or Pb occurs in the finer pyrite forms. The biggest potential problem of As- or Pb-enriched pyrite is, therefore, one of refuse disposal.
Additional publication details
Arsenic and lead concentrations in the Pond Creek and Fire Clay coal beds, eastern Kentucky coal field