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Coal is one of the five resources that may be either sold or turned into saleable materials in Imperialism.

Like the other minerals, coal is not evident at the start of the standard game: you have to prospect for it.

You need one unit of coal and one of iron (with two labor units) to make one unit of steel in a steel mill.

A less common use for it is in the first steamships, particularly the Raider, where it replaces the fabric that sailing ships used (for sails).