Back in 1854, A.G. Aiken shipped 200 tons of coal from Coos Bay to San Francisco via the shipping lanes. His success attracted gold miners, one whose name was Patrick Flanagan, an immigrant from Ireland. In 1855 in the town of Libby Mr. Flanagan found a rich vein running close to the Newport Coal Basin. The vein extended three miles. It was estimated in 1890 that there was as much as 6 million tons of coal in the mining areas. It was speculated by geologists that the vein may extend the length of North Bend, Coos Bay's sister city. As much as 30 to 40 thousand tons of coal were mined each year. Information recently released provides evidence that the massive coal mine still exists. During the late 19th century coal cars transported the coal after Mr. Flanagan brought steam locomotives to handle the shipments.
One very large shipment was deposited in Bunker Hill, another well-known area in Coos Bay. At least 1,000 tons of coal were dropped in Bunker Hill awaiting shipment. There were many more mines which ran from Glasgow south and east towards Riverton. In 1860 the mines shipped 3, 145 tons of coal to the San Francisco area. The production of coal increased by 5,000 tons a year. Tonnage from Coos Bay in 1915 reached nearly 90 thousand tons in the late 1890's. However, by 1915 the tonnage dropped to 709 tons. The mining became sporadic. Boys as young as 13 left school to work in the mines and were given the nickname of "whistle punks". Due to the poor weather and the lack of a deep harbor and jetty the coal was unable to be shipped by barge. Soon, the mines closed. The advent of the combustion engine and the change from steam to diesel engines forced the coal mines to shut down. There is currently talk in the area about reopening the mines however, it is too early to say with confidence that the mines will ever be opened again. The impact on the environment needs to be studied before a final decision to open the mines again will be made.