The Coal-fields of Great Britain, &c

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THIS new edition of Prof. Hull's well-known work is in most respects a great improvement upon the previous ones. Not only are the coal-fields of Britain itself treated of in more detail, but those of the colonies and foreign countries also come in for fuller notice. The introduction of numerous excellent maps illustrative of the English coal fields imparts an additional value to the volume, by enabling the reader to grasp at a glance the leading features in the geological structure of the districts embraced. Prof. Hull has, moreover, largely availed himself of the report prepared by the recent Coal Commission, the chief results of which have been embodied in his work. That report, as everyone knows, has calmed the fears of those who saw looming in the near future the exhaustion of our coal supplies and the consequent decline of our industries. It is comfortable to reflect upon the fact that we have still 146,480 millions of tons available within a depth of 4,000 feet, and something like 48,465 millions of tons at a greater depth. From the first of these estimates, Prof. Hull would deduct one-twentieth for coal-seams under two feet in thickness, thus leaving the available quantity of 139,156 millions of tons lying within a depth of 4,000 feet from the surface. Beyond this depth he believes it will not be practicable to penetrate, owing to the effect of increasing temperature and pressure. This, however, is quite an open question. No good reason can be shown why ventilation should not be made effective at a still greater depth than 4,000 feet. If the deeper-lying coal should ever be needed no doubt the engineers of the future will be equal to the occasion and able to render it available. Then, as regards the effect of pressure, we know from actual experience that the “density of coal-seams is not perceptibly greater at 500 or 600 yards than at half that depth.” One might almost have inferred as much beforehand, for many of our coal-fields which are now being worked at easy depths must at one time have been covered with thousands of feet of strata, long since removed by denudation; yet the seams in such fields are not denser than those of fields which do not appear to have been covered by such great rock masses. Again, we have heard mining engineers assert that the increased pressure in the deeper pits actually aids in the excavation of the coal, which comes away in larger lumps than would be the case with a similar coal in shallower workings. But whether or not it will ever be necessary to sink deeper than 4,000 feet, there can be no doubt that there is yet abundance of fuel above that limit to keep our furnaces going for many long years to come, and if Britain be destined ere long to retire from her place in the vanguard of nations her loss of prestige will probably be due to other causes than the exhaustion of her mineral resources.

The Coal-fields of Great Britain, &c.

By Edward Hull, &c. Third edition. (London: Stanford.)

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G., J. The Coal-fields of Great Britain, &c . Nature 7, 319–320 (1873) doi:10.1038/007319a0

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