Coal Report for April 16, 2014

Coal Report 04-16-14 5m 52sec

the interior of the Huff Creek mine after the fatal accident // image found via MSHA at

Arch Coal has been cited for negligence in the lead-up to the death of a coal miner in Harlan County, Kentucky last year, SNL Financial reports.  Lenny Gilliam, of Appalachia, Va., was killed in August at the Huff Creek No. 1 mine on Black Mountain when a rib collapsed underground.  Arch was retreat mining at Huff Creek, where pillars of coal that hold up the mine roof are systematically removed after mining in a way that allows the operator to retrieve more coal and that, theoretically, allows the mine to collapse in a safe way.  But reportedly, the company had been warned just four months before the fatal accident that retreat mining in this particular section would be unsafe, and the company also reportedly knew about another collapse in the same section that had happened just hours before the fatal accident, and continued mining anyway.  MSHA has now issued two citations to Arch Coal for having failed to follow its approved roof control plan, and for failing to change its plan after it became apparent that conditions were unsafe.  Arch’s fine has not yet been determined.

A proposed new rule that would cut in half the amount of coal dust allowed in mines was based on sound science, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, or GAO.  The Center for Public Integrity reports that this new rule is aimed at curbing black lung, which has been on the rise in recent years, especially in East Kentucky.  In addition to reducing Continue reading Coal Report for April 16, 2014

Mountain News & World Report: Remembering Monongah & Scotia on the 4th Anniversary of Upper Big Branch

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caskets along the streets of Monongah, WV after the coal mine explosion of 1907 // image from the MSHA exhibit on Monongah, found here:

April 5, 2014, marked the fourth anniversary of the Upper Big Branch Disaster, which killed 29 coal miners in Montcoal, West Virginia in 2010.  Tragically, Upper Big Branch was just one of hundreds of explosions and coal mine disasters that have occurred throughout American history.  All told, according to MSHA, 104,819 Americans (and counting) have died in coal mine accidents since 1900, and in the early part of the century, thousands of American miners died on the job every year.

But the deadliest accident of them all happened in Monongah, West Virginia, in 1907.  As we remember Upper Big Branch in this edition of Mountain News & World Report, we begin our program with a radio adaptation from WMMT’s Parker Hobson of a film shot by Appalshop’s Herb E. Smith at a ceremony remembering Monongah at its 100th anniversary in 2007.  For more on Appalshop films, check out

Also in this program, we hear a piece from the WMMT archives remembering the Scotia coal mine disaster, which killed 26 people in Letcher County, Ky. in 1976.  And we close with an original song about the Scotia disaster from Chattanooga-based musician (and former WMMT staffer extraordinaire) Dave Fields.

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

Coal Report for April 9, 2014

Coal Report 04-09-14 5m 25sec

James River Coal's operations // image from

James River Coal has declared bankruptcy, the Bloomberg news service reports.  James River has been a major player in central Appalachian coal, especially in east Kentucky, but it’s also been on shaky financial footing for several years, and industry analysts have been predicting bankruptcy for some time now.  James River has been harmed by the same conditions hurting central Appalachian coal across the board–local coal is more expensive to mine, natural gas has cut into coal’s market share nationwide, and upcoming emissions regulations are causing many power plants to switch away from coal to gas.  As a result, In east Kentucky alone, James River had already closed seven mines just since September, laying off over 700 people.  The company will continue operations while in bankruptcy, but it’s unclear what will happen to its local mines long-term.  As SNL Financial reports, James River has 24 central Appalachian mines up for sale, 17 of which are in east Kentucky, including the Blue Diamond mines in Letcher, Perry, & Leslie Counties and a surface mine in the Carcassonne area.  The other seven mines up for sale are in southern West Virginia.

Despite James River’s bankruptcy, the Mountain Eagle reports that two other companies with large local coal operations have seen recent increases in their stock price.  Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources both saw their stock worth more this week Continue reading Coal Report for April 9, 2014

Coal Report for April 2, 2014

Coal Report 04-02-14 5m 50sec

an Upper Big Branch memorial // photo found at

After coal is mined, it must be separated from the other minerals it is attached to before it can be burned at power plants.  Traditionally, this has been done with water and a variety of chemicals, some of which are harmful to humans, such as MCHM, the chemical that spilled into the Elk River near Charleston, WV in January, tainting the water of some 300,000 people.  But the West Virginia State Journal reports on a new technology that separates coal without using water or chemicals.  The system, called DriJet, uses x-rays to determine the atomic weight of the coal particles, and then uses air to separate them.  This process is reportedly more efficient than traditional water and chemical treatments and can be done at the mine face, meaning that far less coal would need to be transported in trucks, and its creators say that it reduces the possibility of chemical spills and creates less coal waste overall.  It could also mean that coal could be processed without water all over the world, a huge concern in countries like China or India where water is at a premium.  And because the process is more efficient, it could increase the burn efficiency of coal going to the market wherever it’s used.

Decreased coal use in the US and elsewhere has helped lead to a glut in supply and a drop in price, the Wall Street Journal reports.  Metallurgical coal prices are the lowest they’ve been in eight years, and thermal coal prices are their lowest since Continue reading Coal Report for April 2, 2014

What’s Cookin’ Now: Roasting 101!

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Jonathan preaching as to the merits of Proper Shaking Technique to guest-host Kristin Walker Collins

In this special edition of What’s Cookin’ Now that our “chatty & irreverent” hosts have subtitled, “We’ve Upped Our Game, So Up Yours,” Jenny and Jonathan teach special guest-host Kristin Walker Collins the finer points of an ancient and holy practice: roasting!  In this episode, vegetables of all kinds are roasted and served alongside an also-roasted (and delightfully-so) chicken.

While you listen, check out the What’s Cookin’ Now facebook page for a whole set of beautiful photographs from the evening.  Hear previous  months’ episodes at our streaming archive, and be sure to check out their blog,, which is rife with recipes, ruminations, & more.

AND BE SURE TO TUNE IN THIS WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2nd AT 6 for a brand-new show!

Speak Your Piece: 03.26.14

SYP March 26 – 2014

In this week’s tumble into the germy, multicolored plastic ball pit of Letcher County’s weekly exercise in the anonymous expression of mostly-vague opinion, Speak Your Piece: Thank you for you for the tomatoes and noodles and whispers and kisses!  Hey, Old Man in Blackey–what’s your problem?  These young people only know how to microwave!  And more!

Our thanks as always to The Mountain Eagle.  You can hear Wiley Q. (pictured) read Speak Your Piece live each Wednesday near 5 o’clock on WMMT, and you can hear previous installments at our streaming archives.

Coal Report for March 26, 2014

Coal Report 03-26-14 5m 58sec

The Gibson Mine // image found at

Another coal miner has been killed on the job.  The Princeton, Indiana Daily Clarion reports that Timothy Memmer, of Princeton, was killed on Tuesday, March 25th at the Gibson mine near Princeton.  The mine is ultimately owned by Alliance Resource Partners, and Memmer was reportedly killed underground after being crushed by a piece of heavy equipment that moved unexpectedly while he was working on it.  This is the third coal fatality in the US this year, and the second to happen at an Alliance Resource Partners mine.  In January, miner Daniel Lambka, who was just 20 years old, was killed at an Alliance mine in West Virginia, also by equipment shifting underground.  And the Gibson mine, where this latest accident happened, is no stranger to fatalities—according to MSHA, 5 miners have been killed there in three separate incidents dating back to 2001.

The Kentucky House and Senate have each passed their own proposed versions of this year’s state budget, and compared with Governor Beshear’s proposed budget, both the House & Senate versions reduce funding for mine safety.  The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that the House budget would cut funding for the state agency that licenses and inspects coal mines by 30%, from $7.6 million to $5.3 million.  And WFPL Radio reports that the Senate version would cut even more, proposing a Continue reading Coal Report for March 26, 2014

Mountain News & World Report: After Coal in Wales; Thoughts from a Ukrainian Coal Miner; Remembering Coalfield People in a Clean-Energy Future

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Southeast Kentucky alone has lost some 7,000 coal jobs just since mid-2011, and many industry analysts believe those jobs aren’t coming back.  So in this edition of WMMT’s Mountain News & World Report, we look at mining regions in other parts of the world that have gone through times of serious economic instability and change to see what lessons our region could take.

We begin with a  story on a documentary project called After Coal: Welsh and Appalachian Mining Communities, which examines Appalachian transition in the context of South Wales, a major coal producing region which faced a similar decline over a quarter century ago.

Also in this program, we hear an interview that After Coal filmmaker (and WMMT alum) Tom Hansell conducted back in 2000 with a Ukrainian coal miner named Valentin Chukalov.  In it, Chukalov explains how the transition from the socialized mines of the Soviet era into private enterprise created serious problems for many coal miners and their families, issues which comprise some of the background for the current political unrest in the country.

We end our show with an excerpt of a speech given by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka back in 2012, which outlined how efforts to address climate change must keep in mind those who most prone to suffer from a transition away from coal–coal miners and coalfield communities.  This excerpt is read by actor Frank Taylor.

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