Rebecca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource

Miners in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia who helped keep the country’s lights on are worried that their retirement benefits could go dark as a result of a wave of bankruptcies in the coal industry. They hope Congress will approve a bill called the Miner’s Protection Act to shore up the pensions and health benefits promised to union miners. 

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.

Debuting Sunday, September 1 at 9 am

The words "Kentucky Coal" often summon images of the blackened faces of miners emerging from the dark pits of the eastern mountains. In fact, coal mining in the Commonwealth began long before, in the Western Coal Fields of the 1820s. Ever since, from the first mines of McLean's Drift Bank in Muhlenberg County, to the massive operations beneath many western counties, coal has been a major part of our region's life, its politics, and its economy. 

Made possible with the underwriting support of Jennmar.

Later this summer, a company plans to open a surface mine in southern Kentucky. But the operation won’t be mining for coal. Instead, they’re seeking to extract a new natural resource in the commonwealth: tar sands.


Madisonville will house the nation’s fourth Mine Safety and Health Administration emergency response center.

MSHA’s Kevin Stricklin says the new center starts operations in early spring. Stricklin says having those capabilities in Madisonville reduces mining disaster response time in the Midwest by around eight hours.

Hanson Mining Ordinance Under Review

Aug 30, 2012

The Hopkins County Joint Planning Commission is reviewing the city of Hanson’s laws to allow mining within city limits. The city passed an ordinance in 1990 banning mining. But Mayor Charles Young says Alliance Coal has purchased land within city limits, and the city commission wants to allow them to use the land for underground mining.

Ky. mine operators owe $29M in delinquent fines

May 28, 2012

A published report says Kentucky coal operators owe more in delinquent fines to federal authorities for mine safety violations than any other state.  The Louisville Courier-Journal reports the finding from an analysis of records from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.  Records show Kentucky mine operators owe MSHA just over 29 million dollars, 40 percent of the total seventy-three and a half million owed to the agency in mine safety fines.