Coal Report for September 24, 2014

the loadout at Murray Energy's West Ridge Mine, near Price, Utah. The mine was the site of a fatal accident this month. // photo via the Utah Geological Survey at

Two more coal miners have been killed in the US in September.  The Charleston Gazette reports that first, on September 15th, 53-year-old Barry Duncan was killed at the Manchester Mine in Walker County, Alabama, which is operated by Black Warrior Minerals.  According to MSHA, Duncan was killed when a bulldozer he was operating fell off the edge of a highwall.

The very next day, another coal miner was killed in Utah.  The initial MSHA report says that 46-year-old Alejandro Ramirez was killed at the West Ridge Mine in central Utah after being crushed by heavy equipment that he had been operating underground.  The mine is ultimately owned by Murray Energy. After these latest accidents, 11 coal miners have now died on the job in the U.S. this year.

In other news, according to a new study, rates of serious black lung disease in Kentucky and across Appalachia are higher than they have been since the early 1970′s.  According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, progressive massive fibrosis, an advanced kind of black lung disease that has no cure, was all but wiped out as recently as 15 years ago. But a new study, undertaken by Continue reading Coal Report for September 24, 2014

Mountain News & World Report: A SOAR Health Listening Session; Building East Ky.’s Economy from the Ground Up; Remarks from Dr. Ron Eller; & more!

Appalachian scholar & historian Dr. Ron Eller

In this edition of Mountain News & World Report, we hear about local efforts to rebuild the eastern Kentucky economy from the ground up, and we hear about a $5 million grant recently awarded to The University of Kentucky’s Central Appalachian Regional Education and Research Center.  And we close our show with remarks given this spring at UVA-Wise’s new Appalachian Center by Dr. Ron Eller, who reflects on the value of place-based liberal arts education.

But we begin our show this week with a story from one of the many SOAR listening sessions that took place throughout southeastern Kentucky this summer.  WMMT’s Mimi Pickering reports from a session in Whitesburg that focused on local health, bringing together residents and health professionals alike to discuss health issues our region faces as well as possible responses.

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT. To hear previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Coal Report for September 17, 2014

Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray. Murray is the target of a new lawsuit alleging he forced employees to make political contributions. // image found via

More coal layoffs are probably in store for West Virginia. Patriot Coal has issued a notice of potential layoffs for its employees at the Corridor G Complex in Boone County. The complex includes the Hobet 21 surface mine and the Beth Station preparation plant and employs 360 people. A statement from the company blames, “EPA regulations, mild summer weather, and low natural gas prices.” The Charleston Gazette reports that Governor Tomblin and Representative Nick Rahall issued statements blaming the Environmental Protection Agency for the layoffs and holding out the prospect that an economic recovery in the US could build demand for Appalachian coal. Gazette writer Ken Ward notes, however, that many analyses of the coal market have said that Appalachian coal is not likely to recover no matter what the EPA does or does not do.

The West Virginia mining industry will celebrate its past, present, and future at the 2014 Miners’ Celebration at Tamarack, near Beckley, reports the Charleston Daily Mail. The event will take place Thursday, October 2. Organizers will present Continue reading Coal Report for September 17, 2014

Mountain News & World Report: Ideas from Wales to Deal with Declining Coal Jobs; A Report from Boone County, WV

an old outcropping of coal in Wales // photo by Tom Hansell of the After Coal project; more at

In this edition of WMMT’s Mountain News & World Report, we bring you two stories focused on the economic crisis our region is facing as the coal industry continues to decline.

We begin with a story from a local community hit hard by recent coal layoffs–Boone County, West Virginia.  Over the past two years, some 1,800 coal miners have lost their jobs there, which is 1/5 of the county’s workforce.  And after Alpha Natural Resources issued new layoff warnings for Boone County this summer, that number could soon grow.  To see how all this is affecting the folks that live there, Catherine Moore, of West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the What’s Next WV project, visited Boone County earlier this summer.

And just as coal from Boone County and all of central Appalachia powered America’s industrial growth throughout the 20th century, coal from Wales played a similarly pivotal role in the United Kingdom. But coal mining in Wales virtually ended in the 1980’s. In our second story, we hear from a project from Appalachian State University called After Coal: Welsh and Appalachian Mining Communities, which is searching for ideas for the Appalachian economy by looking at how Wales dealt with the loss of its coal jobs. WMMT’s Aaron Pardieu has this report on how community foundations and other forms of investment could help.

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT. To hear previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Coal Report for August 28, 2014

"Blair Mountain Fighting" by Charleston Gazette - (originally published in the Charleston Gazette, 10 September 1921. Via Wikipedia.)

Another coal miner was recently killed on the job, this time close to home, in southwest Virginia.  SNL Energy reports that Michael Justice, who was 41 years old, was killed at CONSOL Energy’s Buchanan Mine in Buchanan County, Virginia.  He was a maintenance supervisor underground.  Initial reports suggested that he was electrocuted, and CONSOL said he had been repairing a roof bolting machine just before the accident.  The Buchanan Mine produces more coal than any other mine in central Appalachia, but this is the fourth fatality at the mine since 2004.  Overall, this marks the ninth coal fatality in the US this year and the second in Virginia.

Back in April, after several rounds of closures and layoffs, James River Coal declared bankruptcy. James River was heavily invested in central Appalachian coal, and fell victim to an issue faced by many local operators—because it’s so much more expensive to mine, central Appalachian coal has struggled.  Since declaring bankruptcy, the company has been looking to sell off assets, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports this week that a judge has approved the sale of several James River complexes. Blackhawk Mining, which is based in Lexington, will buy the Hampden Complex in West Virginia, the Continue reading Coal Report for August 28, 2014

Mountain News & World Report: New Ideas for Mountain Tourism in Cleveland, Va. & Elliott County, Ky.

the Clinch River near Cleveland, Va., as seen on a recent float trip organized by the Clinch River Valley Initiative (CRVI). for more on CRVI, check out photo from the CRVI website.

These are uncertain economic times in central Appalachia. It seems like new coal layoffs are announced somewhere in the region almost every week, and many of our communities are struggling.  In this edition of WMMT’s Mountain News & World Report, we continue our coverage of an issue that is growing increasingly more vital by the day–identifying new economic ways forward in the mountains.

Specifically, in this program, we explore ideas mountain communities are trying to get more folks to come visit, and we begin along the Clinch River in southwest Virginia.  In the Russell County town of Cleveland, a broad coalition of local people (including the Clinch River Valley Initiative, or CRVI) is hoping the river itself can help create a new economic base.  WMMT’s Rich Kirby has this report.

Also in this program, we hear a segment from the WMMT archives that showcases another idea for promoting tourism in the mountains–showcasing our region’s rich heritage of arts & culture.  In a piece which originally aired last fall, WMMT’s Sylvia Ryerson brings us a story about Elliott County, Ky.’s unique, arts-based approach to tourism and development, which includes a quilt square trail alongside other initiatives.

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT. To hear previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Mountain Talk: Appalachian Transition Fellows

The full cohort of Appalachian Transition Fellows // you can find more info about the program at

In this edition of WMMT’s Mountain Talk, we discuss the Appalachian Transition Fellowship Progam, a new initiative aimed at encouraging a new generation of Appalachian leaders while also working to diversify the regional economy.  The first class of Fellows, fourteen young people from throughout the region, recently started working with nonprofits, local governments, and businesses across six Appalachian states on projects working to create jobs and sustainable livelihoods.  In this program, host Mimi Pickering speaks with Fellows Joshua Outsey, Mae Humiston, and Eric Dixon about their work and experiences in the region so far.  We also hear from Kierra Sims of the Highlander Center, which is coordinating the program and mentoring the Fellows.

For more on the program and this year’s Appalachian Transition Fellows, check out their website:  To hear previous episodes of Mountain Talk, WMMT’s regular community conversation, head to our streaming archives.

Coal Report for August 6, 2014

the Twilight Surface Mine surrounding the Jarrell Family Cemetery. The Twilight Mine is one of many affected by recent layoff notices in West Virginia. // Photo from Vivian Stockman;, and found via Flyover courtesy of

More coal mine layoffs are likely to hit central Appalachia, this time in West Virginia.  The Charleston Gazette reports that Alpha Natural Resources has notified over 1,100 West Virginia coal miners that they could soon be laid off.  The workers affected come from 11 different mines across six counties, including the Twilight and Black Castle surface mines in Boone County, the Republic Surface mine in Raleigh County, the North Surface Mine in Mingo and Logan Counties, and the Superior, Reylas, Freeze Fork, and Trace Fork Surface mines in Logan County.  Alpha blamed the potential layoffs on weak coal markets in the US and overseas, and pollution regulations at coal-fired utilities.  But Alpha also blamed just how expensive coal from this region is to mine, saying “Central Appalachia mines haven’t been able to keep up with the fast pace at which coal demand has eroded and prices have fallen.”  The company warned that further layoffs in our region could be coming over the next year.

Despite the expensive cost of local coal, Eastern Kentucky coal production increased by 15% in the second quarter of 2015, the Mountain Eagle reports (the story was originally reported by the Lexington Herald-Leader here).  Production was up in 17 of southeast Kentucky’s 18 coal counties.  The Kentucky Coal Association said a large reason for this was the unusually cold Continue reading Coal Report for August 6, 2014