Coal Mining, Appalachia, and Alternative Industries

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I’ve written several articles on the plight of the Appalachian people and the occupation of coal mining always comes up. Many coal miners cast their vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. They will see no long-term benefit in their chosen occupation. It is a fact that Donald Trump dropped a regulation that stopped coal mine owners from dumping waste water into rivers and streams. It is also a fact that since he became President, a deep mine about 60 miles south of Pittsburgh came online. That mine contains metallurgical coal, not thermal coal and 90 percent of the coal mined in the U.S. is thermal coal. What’s more, this mine, the Acosta mine, was planned in September of 2016, long before Trump’s election. It created about 100 jobs.

Since Donald Trump became President, about 1300 coal mining jobs have been created. Even if he drops coal mining regulation after regulation, it will only stem the tide of the loss of coal mining jobs temporarily. The rise of natural gas as an alternative source of energy has seen to that as has automation.

Donald Trump could do something to help coal miners. He could support retraining of miners and give tax breaks to alternative energy manufacturing corporations if they would locate in coal mining country. Former coal miners need stipends in order to feed their families while they learn new occupations. Firms like wind farms and solar companies could be promised tax breaks if they would locate near where the miners live. Those would be positive things that the President could do for the miners instead of making them empty promises. Alternative energy firms need tax breaks to locate in coal country because geographic access is difficult.

There is one thing that coal miners could do to help themselves. They could relocate. I understand their wish to stay in the place where they are, where their family is. My mother’s family came from Appalachia and I spent 27 years teaching Appalachian young people on a university level. Sometimes, you have to make hard choices and one of them is that you do not sit and starve in place. You learn the lessons of the past when there was an out-migration from Appalachia to find jobs.

Unless the world changes in a way we don’t expect, coal mining is a dying industry. If you are a miner or former miner, don’t die with it. There is something better out there for you.

 

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