WVpac.org previews articles that are relevant to our mission. The article below recently published by West Virginia Public Broadcasting takes a in-depth look at the prospects of any real job growth within the coal mining industry.
What Could Help Create Jobs in Southern West Virginia?
Things are looking up for the coal industry, at least a little bit. Over the past few months, there’s been a slight uptick in coal production, caused by an increased demand for metallurgical coal. It’s the type of coal that’s used to make steel and mined in West Virginia . Even so, only 80 million tons of coal were mined in 2016, the lowest level in several decades.
The small boost that economists are forecasting comes after several years of intense decline in coal production, though, causing thousands of miners to lose their jobs, most of them in southern West Virginia. Now, some people in the region are looking for ways to diversify the region’s economy and, in turn, decrease its reliance on a boom and bust industry.
Eight years ago, Boone County had nearly 4,000 employees working for the coal industry. This area hasn’t seen that many coal mining jobs since the 1980s. Today there are 600 mining jobs.
Former Boone County coal miner Eliezer Flores said he’s been trying to sell his house since last summer. But like many homeowners in southern West Virginia, he said he doesn’t see much hope in finding anyone willing to buy.
Flores worked as a coal miner in West Virginia for more than three decades. His main concern now is for his health insurance and pension.
“We kept the lights on for this country, and now they want to put our lights out. Put us in the pasture and let em die.”
“You can not go back,” said Hamilton.
John Deskins agrees that the coal industry won’t return to what it once was. He believes the best long term solution for southern West Virginia is if new industries and businesses open up in these areas.
Read the entire story… West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Featured Image: Travis Dewitz is a professional photographer located out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He has grown up with trains and railroads are one of his passions that he pursues. His railroad photography can be seen on his website The Railroad Collection.