The concepts of a global environment and economy are strongly and irrevocably linked to global energy issues. Worldwide coal production and international coal trade are projected to increase during the next several decades in an international energy mix that is still strongly dependent on fossil fuels. Therefore, worldwide coal use will play an increasingly visible role in global environmental, economic, and energy forums.
Policy makers require information on coal, including coal quality data, to make informed decisions regarding domestic coal resource allocation, import needs and export opportunities, foreign policy objectives, technology transfer policies, foreign investment prospects, environmental and health assessments, and byproduct use and disposal issues. The development of a worldwide, reliable, coal quality database would help ensure the most economically and environmentally efficient global use of coal. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with many agencies and scientists from the world's coal producing countries, originally undertook a project to obtain representative samples of coal from most of the world's producing coal provinces during a limited period of time (roughly 1998-2005), which is called the World Coal Quality Inventory (WoCQI). The multitude of producing coal mines, coal occurrences, or limited accessibility to sites in some countries can preclude collecting more than a single sample from a mine. In some areas, a single sample may represent an entire coal mining region or basin. Despite these limitations in sampling and uneven distribution of sample collection, the analytical results can still provide a general overview of world coal quality. The USGS intends to present the WoCQI data in reports and, when possible, in Geographic Information System (GIS) products that cover important coal bearing and producing regions.