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Protesting miners blocked the tracks in the morning fog.

Blackjewel Coal Moves To Liquidate, Leaving Millions Unpaid To Workers And Regulators

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WHITESBURGH, Ky. (OVR) — The convoluted bankruptcy of coal company Blackjewel has hit another turn of events as the company’s former CEO moved to liquidate the company. A federal judge is considering a motion submitted last week to convert the bankruptcy from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7. That would mean that instead of exiting bankruptcy… Read More

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 The IG found that MSHA’s standards for exposure to deadly silica dust were out of date, and MSHA lacked… Read More

A coal silo near the old Marsh Fork Elementary School.

Advocates Say Citizen Mining Complaint Process Weakened By Rule Change

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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. (OVR) — Environmental and community advocates in Appalachian coal communities are concerned about a new federal rule, finalized this week, that is changing the process that allows citizens to file complaints about polluting coal mining operations. The Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement said in a Tuesday press release that… Read More

Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray speaks at the EnVision Forum

Murray Energy Exits Bankruptcy, Rehires Union Miners

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ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio (OVR) — Coal mining giant Murray Energy Corp. has emerged from bankruptcy with a new name and a commitment to rehire all of its former union employees, according to a news release from the United Mine Workers of America. UMWA President Cecil Roberts said on Wednesday that a new collective bargaining agreement has… Read More

Piles of coal

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

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

Former Blackjewel Miners Could Get More Money From Proposed Settlement

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CASPER, Wyo. (OVR) — A proposed $17.3 million settlement of a class action lawsuit would provide additional payment for hundreds of Appalachian coal miners who were suddenly left jobless by the abrupt bankruptcy of the Blackjewel mining company. The settlement must be approved by the judge overseeing the complicated Blackjewel bankruptcy case. Although it is not… Read More

Piles of coal

Mine Safety Officials Won’t Do More To Protect Coal Miners From COVID-19, Letter Says

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (OVR) —The Mine Safety and Health Administration is declining to issue an emergency temporary standard that could protect coal miners whose jobs make them vulnerable to the coronavirus. That’s according to an August 14 letter from Department of Labor Deputy Assistant Secretary Joe Wheeler to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. MSHA can issue emergency temporary… Read More

Piles of coal

Oversight Office: MSHA Should Do More To Protect Miners In Pandemic

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (OVR) — The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has not done enough to protect coal miners during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report from an oversight agency released Tuesday. Through interviews with MSHA officials and union representatives, as well as reviews of state and national policies, the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector… Read More

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

Coal and COVID-19: Lung Impairment Makes Miners Especially Vulnerable to Coronavirus

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WHITESBURG, Ky. (OVR) — Underground coal miners start their shifts getting changed in closely packed changing rooms. They ride rail cars to their worksite, shoulder-to-shoulder, sometimes for more than an hour. And once they’re underground, ventilation designed to tamp down coal dust blows air through the mine. All that makes a coal mine  the kind… Read More

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

Piles of coal

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

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

Retired miners begin a meeting with the pledge of allegiance.

After Nearly A Decade Of Anxiety Over Pensions, Coal Miners See Light At The End Of The Tunnel

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Union coal miners and retirees breathed a collective sigh of relief after the U.S. Senate passed a spending bill that includes support for miners’ pensions, which had been at risk due to the coal industry’s downturn. The bill, which funds the federal government for the coming year, also includes The Bipartisan American Miners Act which secures pension… 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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky.

Bill Addresses Pensions, Health Care for Miners, Retirees

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is co-sponsoring a bill with West Virginia’s two U.S. senators and others aimed at preserving the pensions of about 92,000 retired coal miners, as well as the health-care benefits of another 13,000 working miners. Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia announced… Read More

Retired Kentucky miner Virgil Stanley at a UMWA rally for pension protections.

Murray Energy’s Bankruptcy Could Bring Collapse of Coal Miners’ Pensions

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The recent bankruptcy of Ohio Valley coal giant Murray Energy has renewed fears about the already shaky financial foundations of the pension plan that tens of thousands of miners and their families depend upon. The seismic collapse of yet another coal employer has lawmakers from the region renewing their push to fix the United Mine Workers pension… Read More

Protesting miners blocked the tracks in the morning fog.

Blackjewel Miners Get More of Their Pay as Labor Dept. Acts Against Bankrupt Company

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Coal miners who went without pay when mining company Blackjewel declared bankruptcy this June are one step closer to receiving lost wages. The checks come weeks after some of the miners ended a long-running protest, and months after the federal Department of Labor first intervened to allege the company violated labor laws in the month… Read More

Protesting miners blocked the tracks in the morning fog.

Former Blackjewel Miners End Railroad Blockade In Kentucky

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The nearly two-month blockade of a Kentucky railroad track is coming to an end as unpaid coal miners end their protest in order to take new jobs, start classes, or move away from their coal-dependent communities. When coal company Blackjewel abruptly declared bankruptcy in July, it left some 1100 Appalachian coal miners in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia without pay…. Read More

Near the scene of the miners’ protest in Harlan Co., KY.

Paychecks Cut For Some Blackjewel Miners; Others Still Wait

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West Virginia employees of coal operator Blackjewel LLC have received their final paychecks more than two months after the company declared bankruptcy on July 1. In an agreement reached last week between the Department of Labor and the company, Blackjewel cut paper checks for all owed wages to a few dozen employees working at the… Read More

A mining helmet for coal or other mining

Coal Mine Electrician Dies in Accident at West Virginia Mine

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – West Virginia officials say a 40-year-old coal mine electrician has died in an accident. The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training says Steven Vernon Keeney of Sylvester died of injuries from an apparent electrical shock. The accident happened at 12:18 a.m. Tuesday at the Panther Creek Mining American… Read More

Piles of coal

Kentucky Labor Cabinet Requesting Bond Payment from Coal Companies

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Labor Cabinet has sent letters to coal and construction companies that might be in violation of a state law that requires a bond to cover employee wages. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that over the last few weeks, the cabinet wrote to 89 companies that have failed to pay the bond. Last… Read More