CHARLESTON, WV (WVNS) — The Mountain State is leading the way in one of its most recognizable exports.

The West Virginia University Bureau for Business & Economic Research released a new study compiling national data from 2019 that was able to deduce West Virginia was the nation’s leading producer of metallurgical coal.

Metallurgical coal is a grade of coal that is essential for making the steel the United States produces. The met coal is converted to coke which is used in various ways in the production of raw iron. The West Virginia University Bureau for Business & Economic Research’s study showed that West Virginia was the leading producer of met coal nationally and supplied nearly 63 percent of all the met coal distributed to US coke plants.

The study, which was released during the 49th annual West Virginia Mining Symposium, found that U.S. steel production that relies on West Virginia met coal supported about 547,000 jobs in the nation, provided nearly $40 billion in labor income in the U.S., and supported nearly $5.4 billion in tax revenue for U.S. state and local governments in 2019.

“This study showcases the incredible importance and the national reliance on West Virginia-produced met coal. Without the coal our miners produce right here in West Virginia our country would be forced to import this critical ingredient for making the steel that builds, defends, and supports America.”

Chris Hamilton, President and Chief Executive Officer of the West Virginia Coal Association

The majority of West Virginia met coal in 2019 was produced by mines in southern West Virginia according to the study. Logan and Raleigh counties produced the largest amount with more than six million short tons each in 2019. Fayette, McDowell, and Wyoming counties in southern West Virginia  produced more than two million short tons each in 2019. The total amount of met coal produced in the state in 2019 was 34.6 million short tons.

For more information on the coal in West Virginia, visit the West Virginia Coal Association’s website.