Commercial coal beds of the Raton coal field, Colfax County, New Mexico
Charles L. Pillmore


The Raton coal field occupies the New Mexico portion of the Raton Mesa coal region, the southernmost part of the Northern Great Plains Coal Province (Trumbull, 1960). The coal field (Fig. 1) covers an area of 900-1,000 mi2 (2,300-2,600 km2) in northeastern New Mexico and contains large reserves of high-quality coking coal in Upper Cretaceous and Paleocene rocks. An early estimate tabulated 4.27 billion metric tons of coal in beds 14 in. (36 cm) thick or greater beneath less than 3,000 ft (900 m) of cover (Read and others, 1950).
The Raton coal field is defined as the area of the Raton Basin in New Mexico that is underlain by Upper Cretaceous and Paleocene coal-bearing rocks. The Raton Basin is a large, arcuate structural and depositional trough that extends roughly from Huerfano Park, Colo., to Cimarron, N.M. (Fig. 1). The basin is bounded on the west by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and on the east by the Apishapa arch in Colorado and by the Sierra Grande-Las Animas arch in New Mexico and Colorado (Johnson and Wood, 1956). The Las Vegas sub-basin south of the coal field is a structural part of the Raton Basin (Baltz, 1965).
Coal was discovered in the coal field by the Long Expedition about 1821 (Lee, 1917) and has been mined commercially since about 1870. Locations of the principal coal mining camps show that mining was concentrated initially along the eastern margins of the field (Fig. 1). As the demand for coal diminished following World War II, these early mines—Dawson, Koehler, Brilliant and others—closed down. The last was the Koehler mine, which shut down in 1966. Aggregate production of coal from the field by 1955 was 71.2 million metric tons, about one-fourth of the total amount produced from the coal fields of the Raton Basin in New Mexico and Colorado (Carter, 1956). The Koehler mine produced an additional 2.06 million metric tons from 1955 until it closed in 1966. The York Canyon mine (Fig. 1), which opened in October 1966, produced 7.13 million metric tons during its first 9 years of operation, from 1966-75 (E. D. Moore, Kaiser Steel Corp., oral commun., 1976). Thus, the total aggregate production from the field by 1975 was 80.3 million metric tons.


  1. Pillmore, Charles L., 1976, Commercial coal beds of the Raton coal field, Colfax County, New Mexico, in: Vermejo Park, Ewing, Rodney C.; Kues, Barry S., New Mexico Geological Society, Guidebook, 27th Field Conference, pp. 227-247.

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