Coal is a
combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock
strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms,
such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later
exposure to elevated temperature and pressure.
Coal is composed
primarily of carbon, along with variable quantities of other elements, chiefly
hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen. A fossil fuel, coal forms when dead
plant matter is converted into peat, which in turn is converted into lignite,
then sub-bituminous coal, after that bituminous coal, and lastly anthracite.
This involves biological and geological processes that take place over
1968 November 20 Farmington Mine Disaster happens at the
Consol No. 9 coal mine near Farmington,
West Virginia. 78 miners perished. Laws that were then enacted have largely
been abandoned by the new leaner and meaner mine owners of the 21st century.
1976 15 miners went missing after an explosion
rocked the coal mine. Two days later,
there was a second explosion where 11 more men were unaccounted for.
Investigators concluded the explosion was caused by a build-up of methane gas
due to inadequate ventilation. In total, 26 miners died.
2001 Thirteen coal miners die as the result of two gas
explosions September 23 at the Jim Walter Resources Blue Creek No. 5 Mine in
2005 Pennsylvania Department of
Environmental Protection announces it will take up to 60 years and $15 billion
to clean up 250,000 acres of land and over 2100 miles of
streams contaminated by abandoned
coal mines in Pennsylvania.
2006 On January 2 in the Sago Mine in Sago, West Virginia a
blast and ensuing aftermath trapped thirteen miners for nearly two days. Only
one miner survived. International Coal Group is the non-union coal operator of
the Sago Mine.
On May 20 five miners at the non-union Kentucky Darby
Mine No. 1 in Harlan County, state of Kentucky, died after a methane explosion
inside a shaft. On May 24, 2006 a miner underground at International Coal
Group's Sycamore II Mine near Jarvisville, state of West Virginia, died when he
was struck in the head by a heavy wooden object.
2007 On Jan 13 two members of a coal mining crew removing
pillars in a coal mine near Cucumber died
when a portion of the tunnel collapsed and the men were buried in debris deep
underground. The crew was working on a process called retreat mining, a
practice that involves cutting away support pillars to extract the last coal
deposits by working back toward the entrance while allowing the ceiling to fall
When Robert Murray acquired a 50% ownership in the Crandall
Canyon coal mine in August, 2006, his
incorporation repeatedly petitioned the Mine Safety and Health Administration
(MSHA) to allow coal to be extracted from the north and south barriers - thick
walls of coal that ran on both sides of the main tunnels left by design to hold
up the ceilings.
Documents on file with the Utah Division of Oil Gas
and Mining show Andalex, the prior owner, had previously decided not to mine
those barriers, determining it posed a risk to worker safety.
February and March, the incorporation did retreat mining in the north barrier.
Work in the north barrier progressed until March, when the
coal mine suffered a collapse - the
tunnel roof fell in, the tunnel floors heaved and coal exploded from the
support pillars due to the pressure of the mountain bearing down. The collapse
damaged tunnels over a span of more than 700 feet, and prompted
coal mine operators to abandon retreat
mining in the northern barrier.
On June 15 the incorporation received
approval from the Mine Safety and Health Administration to begin cutting away
the support pillars of the south barrier. On August 6 six miners - Kerry
Allred, Don Erickson, Luis Hernandez, Juan Carlos Payan, Brandon Phillips and
Manuel Sanchez - were retreat mining in that south barrier when a 69 acre
On August 16 Dale Ray Black, Brandon Kimber and Gary
Jensen were killed in another collapse while attempting a rescue. According to
1400 pages of government and congressional records the Crandall Canyon
coal mine was expected to
Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette (W.Va.) analyzed
government reports and data and found that 9 out of every 10 coal mining deaths
nationwide over the last 10 years could have been avoided if existing safety
rules had been followed.
Seth Borenstein, Linda J. Johnson and Lee
Mueller of Knight Ridder Newspapers used federal data to find that "since the
Bush administration took office in 2001, it has been more lenient toward mining
companies facing serious safety violations, issuing fewer and smaller major
fines and collecting less than half of the money that violators owed."
"It is a sign of progress that America is beginning to face the
coal-hard truth about burning black "chunks of solid carbon" to meet our
insatiable hunger for electricity. Feeding a ravenous coal-fired power plant
requires stripping huge swaths of land each
and every year. To feed our energy appetites, we flatten mountains, wrench
soil-stabilizing trees from the ground, devour purple mountains majesty and
bury streams under toxic tons of rubble." - Linda Nicholas
across the country are deciding that coal's multiple bad effects are real,
cumulative, permanent and largely ignored in Washington. Coal is the main
reason the US is the world's largest source of greenhouse gases. The ready
availability and relatively low cost (to the power generator), and the fact
that we have always done it this way, gave coal a safe place in the market for
125 years and forged a large body of well-financed special-interest groups." -
2009 Industry sponsored front
group the Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security debutes in the
summer as a product of the Adfero Group, a public relation corporation working
for Koch Industries and the US Chamber of Commerce.
2010 Coal dust explosion at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch
coal mine kills twenty-nine out of
thirty-one miners at the site. The CEO of Massey Energy at the time of the
disaster, Don Blankenship, is convicted in 2015 of conspiring to willfully
violate safety standards but was found not guilty of charges of securities
fraud and making false statements.
strip mining morphs into mountaintop
removal1992 to 2002
Strip mining was just the start. In Appalachia they do not just strip the Earth
for coal seams lying a few feet under the surface they take the entire tops off
mountains and dump them in streams! A rule change allowed strip mining waste to
be reclassified as 'fill'. Twelve hundred miles (1200) of stream bed is
"Mountaintop removal is not only ignorant, as the habitat of
wildlife is destroyed in the name of profit and greed, it is immoral and shortsighted." - Gail
The pillage of Appalachia by the coal industry is being made
possible by officials who view public service as an opportunity for wholesale
2004 Federal judge revokes 11 permits
issued by the Army Corps of Engineers under the Nationwide Permit 21 process
which allowed 'streamlined permitting'.
November the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rules that mountaintop removal and
streambed filling complied with the Clean Water Act. 'Steamlined permitting'
for mountaintop removal and streambed filling is reinstated
regulating mining since 1966 and this is the most lawless administration I have
encountered. They have no regard for protecting miners or the people in mining
communities. They are without scruples. The corruption and lawlessness goes all
the way to the top." - Jack Spadaro, former superintendent of the federal Mine
Safety and Health Administration
judges decision supports
environmentalists' claims that the Army Corps of Engineers has improperly
issued permits for mountaintop coal mining in Appalachia.
In the flurry
of rule changes that take place on George Walker Bush's exit many environmental
regulations are gutted. The rule on mountaintop removal and stream filling is
changed to circumvent government oversight. The rule gives coal corporations a
legal right to do what required special permission previously.
EPA's own scientists have concluded that dumping mining waste into streams
devastates downstream water quality. By signing off on this rule, the agency
has abdicated its responsibility." - Edward C. Hopkins
unmistakably a fire sale of epic size for coal and the entire fossil fuel
industry, with flagrant disregard for human health, the environment or the rule
of law." - Vickie Patton
2009 February 13 the US
Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Virginia, overturn the
previous decision to stop mountaintop coal mining.
companies will be able allowed to continue blasting the tops off mountains and
dumping the leftover rock in valleys, burying streams forever.
scientific evidence of the severe environmental and human impacts from
mountaintop mining is strong and irrefutable." - Margaret
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