"King coal" on the mountain: geology, mining history, and engineering of the Hazleton shaft colliery, northeastern Pennsylvania

Inners, Jon D., (retired) Pennsylvania Geological Survey, 3240 Schoolhouse Road, Middletown, PA 17057; LaRegina, James A., P.G., 7235 Audubon Drive, Harrisburg, PA 17111; and Chamberlin, Alex, P.E., Mountain Grove, RR 3, Box 333, Bloomsburg, PA 17815

During the first half of the 20th century, the Hazleton Shaft Colliery of the Lehigh Valley Coal Company (LVCC) was one of the largest underground coal mines in the Eastern Middle Anthracite field.  Mining operations from the shaft began in 1898 and ceased in 1955, when the workings were flooded by the rains of Hurricane Diane.  The colliery's towering steel breaker—which replaced the original wood breaker in 1942—continued to process coal from nearby mines until 1983, twenty years after the LVCC sold its assets to Pagnotti Enterprises.  In 1998, the breaker, headframe, and nearly all ancillary buildings were razed for steel scrap, eliminating the last great anthracite landmark of the "Mountain City."

The site of the Hazleton Shaft Colliery is located in the middle part of the Hazleton basin, the longest and deepest of the numerous downfolded basins in the Eastern Middle field.  Colliery cross-sections show the lowest coal bed outlining a complex syncline 4000 feet across (north to south) and 1200 feet deep.  Disharmonic anticlinal folds distort both limbs, and complex faults disrupt bedding in the core and north limb.  Eleven coalbeds in the Pennsylvanian-age Llewellyn Formation were mined from the shaft.  Most important of these were (from top down) the Bottom Orchard, Primrose, Mammoth, Wharton, and Buck Mountain.  Thickest of these was the Mammoth, locally up to 30 feet thick.

The LVCC originally sank the shaft to 375 feet to exploit thinner coalbeds above and below the Mammoth, the latter having been mined for many years from slopes on both limbs of the basin.  Deepenings of the shaft to 500 feet in 1938 and to 850 feet sometime before 1950—with concurrent changes in the colliery's slopes and rock tunnels—allowed more efficient working of the thick Mammoth remaining from earlier mining.  In 1934 the Jeddo Tunnel mine-drainage system was extended into the Hazleton basin, collecting water from above a depth of about 480 feet.  A few years later a large pump room was installed at a depth of about 860 feet to improve dewatering of the deeper parts of the mine.  Unsuccessful efforts to close the doors to this pump room during the 1955 flood spelled the deathknell of the colliery—and greatly accelerated the decades-long economic decline of "King Coal" in the Hazleton area.    

Poster paper presented at the 35th Annual Meeting of the Northeastern Section Geological Society of America, New Brunswick, NJ, March 15, 2000.

Reference:

Inners, J. D., LaRegina, J. A., and Chamberlin, A., 2000, “King Coal” on the Mountain: geology, mining history, and engineering of the Hazleton Shaft Colliery, northeastern Pennsylvania: Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs, v. 32, no. 1, p. 26.