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Coal is a combustible sedimentary rock whose ability to produce heat energy fuelled the Industrial Revolution. It is formed when plant matter decays into peat, and then over time is buried, subjecting it to deep pressure. This transforms it, first into lignite coal (soft and brown with a high moisture content and low energy density), and secondly into bituminous coal (soft and dark brown/black, sometimes used as coking coal in the manufacture of steel) or anthracite coal (hard, with a high carbon content and a high energy density). Coal is located in basins in seams between layers of sedimentary rock. It can be mined at the surface (opencast mining) or underground.
The Coal Authority has ownership of, and responsibility for, the UK’s unworked coal under the Coal Industry Act 1994. It can licence operations involving the winning, working or getting of bituminous coal, cannel coal (hydrogen-rich coal) and anthracite. Section 67 of the Wales Act 2017 inserted section 26A of the Coal Industry Act 1994, which states that any licence that authorises operations in relation to coal in Wales can only have effect with the approval of the Welsh Ministers.