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Current studies of the Beckley (Pennsylvanian) seam in an area 60 by 30 km in southern West Virginia indicate that the Beckley was formed in a back-barrier depositional setting. Examination of about 1,800 core records as well as underground workings shows that the Beckley stratigraphic position is characterized by linear northeast-southwest-trending orthoquartzitic sandstone bodies about 1,500 m wide representing stranded barriers on a prograding coastal plain. Areas between the barrier sandstones are about 15 km wide and are occupied by coal and shale of estuarine and tidal-creek origin. The thick bodies of coal, which are relatively small (4.8 by 9.6 km or less), are located on the flanks of the barrier and thin toward the shaly central part of the interbarrier area. Ad acent to the barriers, the coal is split by small linear tongues of sandstone produced by erosion of the barrier. Where the coal adjoins estuarine and tidal-creek sediments, it interfingers and thins into shale and sandy shale. Within the interbarrier areas, the thickest coal is near the headward parts of the tidal creeks; closer to the major estuary the coal bodies are thinner and smaller in areal extent. Knowledge gained from exploration and mining of the Beckley seam should aid in searching for and developing coals in similar depositional settings.
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