The goal of coal mining is to obtain coal from the ground. Coal is valued for its energy content, and, since the 1880s, has been widely used to generate electricity. Steel and cement industries use coal as a fuel for extraction of iron from iron ore and for cement production. In the United States, United Kingdom, and South Africa, a coal mine and its structures are a colliery. In Australia, "colliery" generally refers to an underground coal mine.
Coal mining has had many developments over the recent years, from the early days of men tunneling, digging and manually extracting the coal on carts, to large open cut and long wall mines. Mining at this scale requires the use of draglines, trucks, conveyors, jacks and shearers.
Small scale mining of surface deposits dates back thousands of years. For example, in Roman Britain, the Romans were exploiting all major coalfields (save those of North and South Staffordshire) by the late 2nd century AD. While much of its use remained local, a lively trade developed along the North Sea coast supplying coal to Yorkshire and London.