In 1913, Frank E. Taplin, Sr., a former office boy for John D. Rockefeller at Standard Oil Company, founded The Cleveland & Western Coal Company in Cleveland, Ohio. While originally concerned only with coal sales, by 1917 Cleveland & Western expanded into coal mining operations through the acqusition of three mines in Belmont County, Ohio. In 1925, The Powhatan Mining Company was incorporated as a subsidiary of Cleveland & Western and opened the then-largest mechanized deep mine in Ohio. Subsequently, Cleveland & Western changed its name to The North American Coal Corporation. Between 1917 and 1932, North American Coal expanded its mining operations to West Virginia and diversified its business by acquiring coal docks in Milwaukee, Duluth, Toronto, Hamilton and Port Maitland. By the time of Taplin’s death in 1938, North American Coal produced nearly 2 million tons of coal annually.
After World War II, North American Coal continued to grow by entering into long-term sales contracts with utility providers and purchasing underground coal reserves in Pennsylvania and Ohio. By 1952, North American Coal was producing over 5 million tons of bituminous coal per year. In 1957, North American Coal expanded into the western United States and into the business of lignite production when it purchased the Dakota Collieries Company surface lignite mine near Zap, North Dakota and renamed it Indian Head Mine. When North American Coal’s stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1961, the company was the ninth-largest coal producer in the United States, with annual sales of over 6 million tons. In 1966, as part of a general strategy to increase its long-term sales contracts, North American Coal negotiated a one million ton per year contract with a North Dakota utility. Consequently, North American Coal acquired large amounts of lignite reserves near Indian Head Mine and established The Coteau Properties Company in 1972 and The Falkirk Mining Company in 1974. Seeing coal as a viable alternative to the dwindling amounts of natural gas in the southwestern United States, North American Coal continued its push westward by acquiring nearly 400 million tons of coal in Texas in the late 1970s.
By 1978, over 80 percent of North American Coal’s reserves were located in North Dakota, and nearly half of the company’s coal production came from its western operations. North American Coal began to phase out its bituminous coal mines in Pennsylvania and Ohio during the 1980s, having already closed its subsurface mines in West Virginia during the 1960s, in order to concentrate on its promising lignite surface mines in North Dakota and Texas. In 1985, North American Coal bought a controlling interest in Yale Materials Handling Corporation from Eaton Corporation. In the following year, 1986, North American Coal created a new holding company, NACCO Industries, Inc., traded on the New York Stock Exchange with the ticker symbol NC. North American Coal became a wholly owned subsidiary of NACCO, as did Yale Materials Handling Corporation, which was operated by the NACCO Materials Handling Group subsidiary. In 1990, North American Coal relocated its headquarters from Cleveland to Dallas, Texas.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, North American Coal continued to focus on the production of lignite while also providing dragline mining services to independently owned limerock quarries in Florida. Today, North American Coal is one of the United States’ largest miners of lignite coal and among the largest coal producers in the country, producing approximately 30.86 million tons of coal in 2015. In addition to its Florida dragline operations, North American Coal operates mines in North Dakota, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana.