coal mining

Fifty years ago this week, 78 men were killed when a coal mine exploded in West Virginia. The Farmington Mine Disaster devastated a small town and ushered in new health and safety laws nationwide.

George Butt was in the first grade in November 1968 when his father put in his two weeks' notice at the No. 9 mine. Harold Wayne Butt had worked as a coal miner but planned to switch careers, to become a postmaster.

"They came and got me out of class and told me I had to go home," George Butt said. "Ended up finding out the tragedy when I got there."

Courtesy CVI

From solar farms in Virginia to a green energy subdivision in Kentucky, a new report by a group of regional advocacy organizations highlights 20 ready-made projects across the Ohio Valley that could give abandoned mining operations that were never cleaned up a second life, and create new economic opportunity across the region.

Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

In eastern Kentucky’s Pike County, some residents have suffered numerous damaging flash floods. State inspectors say the floods were made worse by a nearby coal mine. The damaged mine lands have not been properly reclaimed, sending water rushing onto neighboring properties. It’s a common problem in coal communities. But what sets this one apart is that the coal mine is owned by the family of West Virginia’s Governor, Jim Justice. The Justice family companies are locked in a legal battle with Kentucky’s regulators over the unreclaimed mine lands.

Jesse Wright / WVPB

As President Trump attempts to revive the struggling coal industry, the administration’s top regulator for mine safety used a recent lecture at West Virginia University to lay out his priorities for the agency charged with keeping miners safe.

Kara Lofton / WVPB

In back-to-back events this week President Trump and his commerce secretary visited the Ohio Valley to tout administration policies aimed at propping up two of the region’s traditional but faltering industries — metals and mining.

Courtesy Coal Miners Respiratory Clinic

When former coal mine employees in western Kentucky faced arraignment Wednesday on federal charges that they conspired to falsify the required monitoring of coal dust, the hearing brought renewed attention to the region’s surge in black lung disease.

Vivian Stockman and Southwings

An area roughly the size of Delaware has been mined for coal in Appalachia using mountaintop removal, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Howard Berkes / NPR

A new study by federal health officials finds the recent surge in cases of black lung disease is especially concentrated among coal miners in central Appalachia.

More coal miners in central Appalachia have suffered the advanced stages of the deadly disease black lung than previous government research has found, and more miners working in the region today have earlier stages of the disease.

Those are two of the findings in a bundle of studies released Tuesday and expected to be released soon, which focus on the epidemic of black lung disease first reported by NPR in 2016.

Updated on Feb. 6 at 3:49 p.m. ET

Epidemiologists at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health say they've identified the largest cluster of advanced black lung disease ever reported, a cluster that was first uncovered by NPR 14 months ago.

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