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West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin with miners on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers, Union Urge Mine Safety Regulators to Act on Silica Dust

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (OVR) — A group of Ohio Valley senators says a watchdog agency’s recent report shows that federal regulators must do more to protect coal miners from silica dust, an especially toxic form of dust created when mining equipment cuts into rock layers near coal seams. In a Monday morning press release, six Democratic senators,… Read More

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

Federal Watchdog Finds Coal Safety Regulator Not Protecting Miners From Silica Dust

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (OVR) — The Mine Safety and Health Administration is not doing enough to protect coal miners from deadly silica dust, according to a new report from the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General. The IG found that MSHA’s standards for exposure to deadly silica dust were out of date, and MSHA lacked… Read More

Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray speaks at the EnVision Forum

Bob Murray, Who Fought Black Lung Regulations As A Coal Operator, Has Filed For Black Lung Benefits

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SAINT CLAIRSVILLE, OH (OVR) — Robert E. Murray, the former CEO and president of the now-bankrupt Murray Energy, has filed an application with the U.S. Department of Labor for black lung benefits. For years, Murray and his company fought against federal mine safety regulations aimed at reducing the debilitating disease. “I founded the company and… Read More

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Remembering A Miner Who Personified Coal’s Contributions And Costs

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Charles Wayne Stanley ran underground mining machines for some 20 years, cutting coal from beneath the hills where Virginia meets Kentucky along the Cumberland ridge. He spent another decade as a roof bolter, work that kept the rock above from falling in on his fellow miners. Stanley was 53 when the Ohio Valley ReSource and… Read More

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UMWA Wants More Coronavirus Protections for Coal Miners

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The United Mine Workers of America is asking federal regulators to set uniform, enforceable guidelines to help protect coal miners from contracting COVID-19. In a letter dated Tuesday, March 24, UMWA President Cecil Roberts wrote to the Mine Safety and Health Administration requesting the agency issue a “safeguard” or “emergency standard” that would require coal mine operators… 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

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

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

MSHA Comment Period Shows Divide on Measures to Protect Miners Health

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The comment period has closed for the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s proposed rule on respirable silica, a major contributor to skyrocketing rates of lung disease among coal miners. The 49 relevant comments included a striking testimony from an anonymous coal miner sharing details of the ways in which current mine operators cheat on dust… Read More

Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray speaks at the EnVision Forum

Black Lung Trust Fund Likely Burdened by Murray Bankruptcy

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The recent bankruptcy of Murray Energy is likely to significantly increase the debt of a struggling federal trust fund that supports disabled miners’ health care expenses. According to court filings, Murray Energy could be responsible for as much as $155 million under the Black Lung Act and general workers’ compensation, but testimony from the Government Accountability… Read More

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

Federal Agency to Hear Comment on Silica Dust as Black Lung Epidemic Rages

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The Mine Safety and Health Administration will host a public meeting Thursday as it considers action on regulating respirable silica, one of the major contributors to Appalachia’s skyrocketing rates of black lung disease. MSHA issued a request for information in response to calls for increased regulation after a 2018 investigation from NPR and PBS Frontline. That… Read More

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

New Kentucky Memorial Honors Miners Who Died Of Black Lung

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Coal miners and family members of miners who have died from black lung disease gathered Sunday in Whitesburg, Kentucky, to dedicate a new memorial to miners who perished from the workplace disease. While Appalachian coal country has several memorials to mining disasters, this is believed to be the first memorial to remember the thousands of… Read More

Piles of coal

As Disabled Miners Hit D.C., Lawmakers Introduce Bills To Fund Black Lung Benefits

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Democratic members of Congress introduced legislation Tuesday to provide additional funding for coal miners suffering from black lung. The bills came as a contingent of Appalachian miners afflicted with the disease lobbied lawmakers for more support. “It doesn’t only take your health. It takes your identity,” Barry Johnson said of the disease. Johnson is a… Read More

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

As Congressional Panel Focuses On Black Lung, UMW Urges Stronger Health Protections


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As Congress hears testimony on the epidemic of black lung disease among Appalachian miners, two labor leaders are calling on Congress and regulators to do more to protect miners. In a letter to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA, the United Mine Workers of America and the United Steel Workers of America urged… Read More

As Calls For Action On Black Lung Disease Grow, Regulators Show Little Indication Of Change

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Harold Sturgill was disabled by black lung disease when he was 58 years old. Now he advocates for disabled miners. “When it comes to the mining companies, and it comes to the worker, it’s still all about production,” Sturgill said. “They could care less about me, how much dust I suck in, or how long… Read More

Remembering A Coal Miner Who Stood Up For Those With Black Lung

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Robert Bailey started mining coal in southern West Virginia’s McDowell County in the 1970s. By the time he retired from the Patriot Coal Company 36 years later he was already having trouble breathing. By the time I first interviewed Bailey in 2014, his black lung disease had become severe. “I’m in the process of a lung transplant,” he… Read More

A miner is tested for lung function and signs of black lung disease

West Virginia Coal Miners Rally For Black Lung Legislation

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Miners and advocates rallied Wednesday at the West Virginia Capitol in support of a series of bills aimed at preventing and treating severe black lung disease. Five bills introduced by lawmakers would make it easier to make qualify for state benefits and provide benefits to miners who have early-stage black lung. The bills come at… Read More

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Still Fighting: These Widows’ Stories Show Larger Effects of Black Lung Epidemic

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Nancy and Rich Potter had the kind of marriage that made other couples jealous. He’d take her on spontaneous trips. She’d wear her Daisy Dukes just for him. Joyce Birman said her late husband, George, made a terrible first impression. It was his apology for it that made her fall for him, hard. Vickie Salyers’… Read More

Still, They Persist: Black Lung Advocates Demonstrate At McConnell’s KY Office

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With just days left before a Congressional deadline, advocates for black lung treatment are still pushing Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell to secure funding for miners’ benefits. About two dozen people demonstrated Wednesday near McConnell’s regional office in London, Kentucky, carrying placards reading “Black Lung Kills” and singing along with a banjo tune modified for the occasion…. Read More

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Amid Black Lung Surge Pulmonary Rehab Brings Hope To Disabled Miners

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Marcy Tate grew up in southwest Virginia in a coal mining family. “My father-in-law was a coal miner, my father was a coal miner, my grandfather was a coal miner, my great-grandfather was a coal miner,” she said. Tate knew what black lung disease looked like. In 2003, her father-in-law passed away from what Tate… Read More

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

Data Dives And Shoe Leather: How NPR’s Howard Berkes Investigated Appalachia’s Black Lung Epidemic

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NPR is reporting that more than two thousand coal miners are now suffering from the most severe form of black lung disease, Progressive Massive Fibrosis, or PMF. And despite clear warnings, investigative reporter Howard Berkes shows, the mining industry and government regulators did little to stop it. Data loom large in this story: Berkes took a deep dive… Read More