World hard coal production has risen from 1,214.7 Mt in 1946 to an estimated 5,990 Mt in 2009, accounting for the bulk of the increase in total coal production. Brown coal production increased from 836 Mt in 1973 to 913 Mt in 2009. During the last 50 years the composition of key producing nations has changed, as seaborne coal trade has developed and a world market has emerged. The old industrial countries of Europe and North America, notable the UK, the US and Germany, have historically been the coal producers and consumers but this pattern has changed.
The Asia Pacific region, which includes the three coal producers Australia, China, Indonesia, overtook North America to become the main coal producing region in 1992. In 1981 the region only had 26% of the share of production rising to 63% in 2009. Europe and the CIS region lost 33% of its market share over the review period from 50% in 1981 to 17% in 2009. A similar, but smaller, decline in market share was reported for the North American region of 6% to a 15% market share.
China, USA, India, Australia and Russia have emerged as major producers and Australia, Indonesia and Russia have been the leading exporters during the last 30 years.
World hard coal production has risen by 42% since 2002 while production of brown coal has increased only 2% during the same period.