As we begin a new decade, it is appropriate to take a look at where we have been, where we are going, what our opportunities are and what obstacles exist along our path. As an industry, we have a lot in which we can take pride.
Nothing is more important than the safety and security of our working coal miners. Every one of our members and their people do everything possible to make sure our people go home at the end of their shifts. We work every day to make sure that happens. Significant improvements in work practices and conditions are made every day and we will continue to do so. Our goal continues to be zero accidents, zero injuries and zero fatalities. West Virginia’s underground mines are all equipped with the most advanced safety equipment in the world – fire suppression systems, machinery that shuts down automatically when safety monitors are triggered, self-rescue air systems, safety refuges and advanced communications methods.
Our coal miners are our most precious resource. They work hard every day to meet the nation’s energy needs and to take care of their families. They are the best in the world and we are proud of the work they do each day. In the past 10 years, our 21,000 active coal miners have provided 1.5 billion tons of coal to fuel our nation’s energy demands and provide the building blocks of our nation’s industrial might and contribute to its security.
The hard work of West Virginia coal miners has given Americans a standard of living unparalleled in the modern world. The coal they mine to make our steel and electricity literally keeps our dreams alive and possible. However, our industry’s reach goes far beyond our active coal miners as another 45,000 vendors and support workers work together with the coal industry. From the mechanics and sales people, to the engineers, surveyors and support staff at hundreds of state companies, the reach of the industry is felt in a very direct way. And going further, thousands of additional jobs are spun off by the industry into their host communities – from the pizza shop to the convenience store, from the sales people at the local auto dealership to the teachers in our public schools, our 21,000 coal miners provide the bedrock on which these other jobs depend.
According to a recent joint study by West Virginia University and Marshall University, the state’s coal industry provides an estimated 63,000 jobs for West Virginians – ranging from actual coal mining jobs to sales jobs at coal vendor companies, utility companies, rail and transport companies. In fact, according to the study, West Virginia’s coal industry generated an estimated $23.5 billion in 2008. Our industry has stepped up to the plate to meet the needs of the future. Working together with local and state public officials to coordinate the needs of mining with those of our host communities, we are creating much-needed land for use as sites for industrial parks, shopping centers, schools, roadways, airports, parks, new homes, ball fields and playgrounds.
In so many ways, West Virginia coal miners are providing for our present and building a future for themselves and for the people of our state.
Our people have also worked hard to preserve and protect our past and our heritage. We have gone far beyond that which was required of us to restore former mine sites to their former beauty. We have planted millions of trees – working in conjunction with major universities to restore species on the brink of extinction to their former range. Our sites have provided habitat for wildlife and helped bring several species back to our region.