What Is Coal?

So what is coal? 

It is a very unusual organic sedimentary rock.

Unlike other rocks, it burns.

And unlike other rocks, it does not consist of minerals.

 coal ore 
 By Alison Christine via Flickr.com

Instead, it consists of dead plant material that has turned into rock.

It does, however, occasionally contain some minerals (that have accidentally entered it from other rocks - they have not been formed in coal), such as calcite, dolomite, siderite, marcasite, quartz, pyrite, sulfates and phosphates.

 what is coal 
 By Jeffrey Beall via Flickr.com

This rock is brown or black in colour. It is fine grained.

It occurs interlayered with other sedimentary rocks.

It forms when layers of dead plant material at tropical swamps are pushed deeper down by new layers.

 old coal mine 
 Old coal mine by Ron Reiring via Flickr.com

Deep down they turn in to peat, and later to rock under pressures from the above layers, and at increasing temperatures. 

Most coal formed in the ideal conditions for its formation during Carboniferous and Permian periods.

 coal mining jobs
 By Kym Farnik via Flickr.com

It does not form at that pace now and coal is therefore not a renewable resource.
If we overuse it, we will run out of it.

Burning coal also releases CO2 into the atmosphere.

 working in a coal mine

And in the current times of global warming, we really don't need to release CO2 that has been kept in coal for millions of years.

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