Final Project- Coal mining in Appalachia

How does coal mining affect Appalachia as a region?


  • Coal was a known resource of Appalachia, but before the Civil War there was not much use for it
  • After the Civil War ended, the Industrial Revolution began, drastically increasing the need for coal
  • In the beginning, coal mines were run by smaller local companies
  • After the Civil War, large corporations came in and took over most of the Appalachian coal supply
  • Once World War I began, the demand for coal grew even more, causing coal companies to import a huge amount of European Immigrants
  • In order to compensate for the large increase in mines and workers, coal companies began to build their own towns where the coal miners lived, and were forced to rely on everything from the coal companies
  • As World War I came to a close, the demand for coal plummeted causing prices to fall and mines to close
  • Technology advanced and decreased the need for manpower in the mines

Coal Mining Today:

  • The main places that coal mining is prevalent is Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama
  • “Nearly 13,000 coal jobs- and countless more in related industries- have disappeared in Kentucky since President Obama took office”
  • The future of coal mining is uncertain
  • Donald Trump has said he will “put coal miners back to work”, but with current policies in place, nobody knows what will actually happen

Pros of Coal Mining:

  • Mining brings jobs into Appalachia
  • Bringing more coal mining jobs back could “lure the young” to stay in Appalachia and keep the culture youthful
  • Since coal mining is an industry of “boom and bust” the welfare of Appalachia has a lot to do with how well the coal industry is doing
  • Coal mining often supports the economy
  • Provides an available energy source

Cons of Coal Mining:

  • Miners were typically paid $3-$5 a day for a 12-hour work day”
  • Land Destruction
    • Over 470 mountains in southern Appalachia have been destroyed beyond repair
    • “According to government figures for 2005, more than 1.8 billion pounds of high explosives were used in West Virginia and Kentucky alone, primarily in surface-mining operations”
  • Cancer and other sicknesses
    • Coal companies dump sludge into waterways, poisoning the water that Appalachians drink
    • The main contents of this waste is arsenic, mercury, chromium, and cadmium
    • Pollution is not regulated at the coal-burning power plants
  • Drug Issue
    • Many injuries sustained through coal mining causes miners to get hooked on prescription pain killers such as OxyContin
  • “Mountaintop-removal mines in Appalachia are estimated to produce just 5 to 10 percent of total U.S. coal production, and generate less than 4 percent of our electricity- an amount that could be eliminated from the energy supply with small gains in energy efficiency and conservation”
  • The amount of coal in Appalachia has decreased drastically due to all the mining, so jobs are rapidly decreasing, but the mountains are still destroyed

Coal Mining Laws:

  • Under the Environmental Protection Agency put in place by the Obama administration, coal companies should be regulating their pollution and waste dumping into waterways, but they are not
  • These types of laws are hard to enforce, and coal companies are so powerful they do not feel the need to follow them
  • These laws have created restrictions on areas that can be mined
  • “The federal government’s halting of about 40 mining permits in eastern Kentucky has led to the loss of about 3,600 jobs in the mines and in businesses that benefit from the region’s mining”