Monday, November 21, 2011

Coal Mining in Appalachia

I am working on a documentary on Coal Mining in McDowell County West Virginia, deep in the heart of Appalachia. McDowell County is one of the poorest and most remote counties in the United States. In fact Welch, the county seat had at one time the highest concentration of millionaires in the United States. Thousands of immigrants came from all over the world to work in the coal fields, think the movie Matewan. Now Welch is scarcely a shadow of it's former self. Still today more coal is taken out of this area than any time in it's history, but with mechanization and non union mining this area has become destitute. Not to mention that many of these companies have treated the people there with ethical disdain and criminal neglect for a long time.

Black lung, heart disease, diabetes, and drug abuse are but a few of the problems that have come with poverty here. Black lung disease is on the rise among all the miners after some years of status quo. Many of formerly rich towns in the area are now little more than ghost towns and still the only jobs that pay more than minimum wage are the most dangerous jobs in the world, coal mining. Very few people here have health care and access to clinics.

The following images are from the past 3 years. In the context of the national economy that we are all suffering from, I want you to remember that some of our fellow countryman have had it a lot worse for a long time and they should not be forgotten, in fact they need to be celebrated as hero's, they are reason the lights are still on. However that is not to celebrate coal, we need to find alternatives and quickly, but as in all decisions involving policy you cannot forget that peoples lives are deeply affected.

And then their is Mountaintop Mining, but that is another story...