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

2014-04-03 MN WR

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 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!

WCN 3-5-14

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

2014-03-20 MN WR

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.

Coal Report for March 19, 2014

Coal Report 03-19-14 05m 47sec

(click to embiggen) maps found through the US Dept. of Justice at

Just after Alpha Natural Resources was fined a record $27 million for water pollution violations in Kentucky and four other states, a Kentucky-based coal company was also issued a record fine for the same thing.  The AP reports that Nally & Hamilton Enterprises was fined $660,000 for what the EPA says was the illegal dumping of mine debris into streams near two east Kentucky mines: Doty Creek in Knott County and Fugitt Creek in Harlan County.  The EPA said this violated the Clean Water Act, and that this was one of the largest fines ever given to a Kentucky coal company for violations of environmental laws.  Under this consent decree (read it here), the company must pay the full fine within 180 days, and must restore the stream quality at both sites.  Nally & Hamilton was also fined over $500,000 in 2011 for violations in its water quality reports.

The controversy surrounding the North Carolina coal ash spill continues.  The Raleigh News-Observer reports that the Southern Environmental Law Center has recently released emails that they say show that the state’s Department of Environmental Resources was conspiring with Duke Energy to let the company off with reduced fines after lawsuits were filed Continue reading Coal Report for March 19, 2014

Art Matters: Diane Kahlo

Art Matters – Diane Kahlo

In this episode of WMMT’s Art Matters, hosts Lacy Hale & Donna Williams interview Kentucky’s own Diane Kahlo.  Kahlo’s recent work, “Wall of Memories: Las Desaparecidas de Cuidad Juarez” (“The Missing Women of Juarez”), uses Kahlo’s unique, lovely, and arresting work to draw attention to the murdered women of Ciudad Juarez.  For more on this project, check out this article by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Art Matters airs at 6 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month.  You can follow them on facebook, and to hear previous episodes, click here.