coal mining

Citing concerns over pricing and pollution, the Obama administration on Friday unveiled a moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands. The change won't affect existing leases, which generated nearly $1.3 billion for the government last year.

The Department of the Interior says it wants to make sure the money it's charging for coal leases takes into account both market prices and what's often called the "social costs" of coal — its impact on climate change and public health.

The agency says federal lands account for roughly 40 percent of all U.S. coal production.

Joe Moore stood near a sign reading: "Authorized Personnel Only."

"I used to be authorized," he said.

Moore is a coal miner. The sign was at the entrance to the mine that had laid him off the previous day. The Alliance Coal facility had closed — a symptom of the coal industry's rapid decline.

Jan Truter / Flickr (Creative Commons License)

In a new final rule this week the Mine Safety and Health Administration is requiring underground coal mines to equip their continuous mining machines with proximity detectors that give a warning and shut down the equipment when a miner gets too close.

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Mining companies can’t sue individual government inspectors for damages, according to a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued late last month.

A settlement between the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet and a coal company won’t be allowed to go forward after a Franklin County Circuit judge’s rejected the proposal Monday.

Among the mining executives that NPR investigated, one coal mine owner in West Virginia stands out. His mines owe nearly $2 million in overdue fines, while he, himself, is a prominent billionaire.

Jim Justice is West Virginia's richest man, with a net worth of $1.6 billion, according to Forbes. He owns 70 active mines employing 1,200 miners in five states. In addition to running his businesses, he has invested or given away more than $200 million in the last five years.

Jack Corn / Environmental Protection Agency-National Archives

 

The most severe form of black lung disease is at levels not seen since the early 1970s, according to new data from the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety.

The West Virginia mine where two workers were fatally injured on Monday consistently violated federal mine safety laws, but federal regulators say they were unable to shut it down completely.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration confirmed that two workers were killed on May 12 when coal and rocks burst from mine walls at Patriot Coal's Brody No. 1 mine in Boone County, W.Va.

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The Kentucky Senate will likely restore funding to conduct coal mine inspections in the state budget.

Currently, mines get six state inspections a year. A previous draft of the budget cut the number to two. Senate President Robert Stivers says his chamber will likely restore funding for six inspections.

The Kentucky Senate has passed its version of the budget, and the state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet is warning it could have dire consequences for coal mine safety.

The Senate’s version of the budget cuts the amount of money the state’s Office of Mine Safety and Licensing to $2,643,200. That’s a 65 percent cut from the amount of money Governor Steve Beshear recommended in his budget, and a 50 percent cut from the House’s version of the bill.

In a statement, Energy and Environment Cabinet officials said the change would hurt the state’s coal industry.

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