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David Pratt Jr. and Sr., right and second from right, protest former employer Blackjewel in summer 2019.

‘There’s Going To Be Something Better for Him’: Former Blackjewel Miners Reflect on Changes in Coal Country

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On a blistering August afternoon in Cumberland, Kentucky, David Pratt, Jr. stood in the middle of a two-lane highway, holding a sign that read “COAL MINERS AND TRUCKERS AGAINST CORPORATE AMERICA.” A few yards away, his father, David Pratt Sr., who is graying but still muscular, leaned back in a lawn chair perched precariously on… Read More

Coronavirus

Anxiety In Appalachian Coal Country: First The Mines Closed, Then Came Coronavirus

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As the economic fallout from the coronavirus continues to reshape our lives, small-town business owners are worried about the future. Whitesburg, Kentucky —  a town already struggling from the decline in the coal industry — is grappling with a new and serious challenge as the effort to contain the disease brings deep economic pain. The… Read More

An X-ray image of an Appalachian coal miner with black lung lesions.

Scientists, Mine Safety Officials Discuss Black Lung Protections

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Officials with the Mine Safety and Health Administration met for the first time with miners’ health researchers Wednesday in a new partnership designed to discuss ways to better protect coal miners from the dust that causes black lung disease. In future meetings, representatives from the two agencies will discuss recommendations made by the National Academy of Sciences… Read More

The site near Ashland, KY, where Braidy plans a new aluminum facility.

CEO Ousted at Kentucky Aluminum Company Amid Questions About Controversial Funding

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A controversial economic development project in Ashland, Kentucky, hit a snag last week as aluminum company Braidy Industries ousted CEO and board chairman Craig Bouchard. In a statement, Braidy Industries’ interim CEO said he appreciated Bouchard’s hard work for the company. Bouchard says the firing was improper and is refusing to step down. The dueling… Read More

Miners assemble on railroad tracks to block a shipment of coal from a Blackjewel mine.

Bankrupt Blackjewel Coal Still Racking Up Environmental Violations, Officials Warn

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An attorney for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet told a federal judge Wednesday that the bankrupt coal company Blackjewel has accrued nearly 300 environmental violations since it entered bankruptcy in July. “It’s essential that these violations are addressed, abated, and that they stop accruing,” Cabinet attorney Lena Seward told bankruptcy judge Frank Volk in the… Read More

A grocery store

Grocers in Rural Coal Country Struggle to Stay in Business

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There’s a picture frame on the wall next to the customer service desk in the IGA in Inez, Kentucky. Inside the frame is a scrap of beige meat-counter paper, on which a man named Derle Ousley sketched the layout for an ad announcing the opening of his very first grocery store. “Inez Supermarket Grand Opening,”… Read More

Miners and supporters block the railroad in Pike Co., KY

More Unpaid Appalachian Miners Stage a Coal Train Blockade

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For the second time since summer, eastern Kentucky coal miners are blockading a railroad track to protest unpaid wages. The new blockade, which was started Monday afternoon by Quest Energy miners, echoes the months-long blockade by Blackjewel coal miners over the summer and speaks to a growing discontent in Appalachian coal country. “It’s hard to go… Read More

A mountaintop removal mine site in southern West Virginia.

Study Shows Surface Coal Miners are Exposed to Toxic Dust that Causes Black Lung

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Appalachian surface coal miners are consistently overexposed to toxic silica dust, according to new research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and surface mine dust contains more silica than does dust in underground coal mines. The research is the first to specifically analyze long-term data on exposure to toxic silica dust for workers… Read More

Participants documented many exposures to cigarette smoke. Kentucky and West Virginia have the nation’s highest smoking rates.

Mountain Air: Youth Help Identify Causes of Ohio Valley’s High Lung Disease Rates

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Isabella Back, 18, pulls her jacket tight around herself as she crosses the gravel driveway. “So we’re going about 10 feet from my house to my dad’s workshop,” she says, and pushes through a door in a big, red barn. The Kona, Kentucky, shop is crowded with cluttered work tables and hulking machines, and the… Read More