The Coal War on West Virginia and the Appalachian Mountains

Just some drops in the bucket:

1883—2014–21,000 deaths in coal mine accidents

1998-2014–170 deaths in coal mine accidents

1968—2007–Black Lung—1500 Coal Miner Black Lung deaths each year (source: UMWA) That’s close to 60,000 black lung deaths just since 1968

21,351 coal miner injuries per year between 1991 and 1999
Jobs—125,000 when my dad was a coal miner in 1941, versus 20,000 now.

1972 Logan County, Buffalo Creek coal waste dam collapse–125 killed—Pittston Coal called it an “Act of God.” Governor Arch Moore said the biggest damage was to West Virginia’s image.

Mingo County—has produced more coal than any other county and is now one of the poorest counties in the whole country.

Mountain Top Removal–July 8, 2001–1600 homes and 16 Deaths in flooded valleys below mountain top removal. 640 Appalachian mountain tops blown apart for coal that provides just 8% of the nation’s electricity. Nearby–Cancer rates twice as high, high number of Birth Defects and Children’s Asthma. Selenium in run off causes fish deformities. Conductivity—Cabin Creek over 600, some streams over 1500. Conductivity over 300 is considered too high for healthy aquatic life.

Jan 9, 2014–Coal Cleaning Chemical leak into Elk River poisoned water for 300,000 people.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, things aren’t going to get better, they’re not!” From the Lorax by Dr. Suess

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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